For political scientists, one of the most interesting Constitutional battles in our nation’s history is heating up. It is the battle over gay rights versus religious rights. What makes this battle interesting to political scientists is that it appears to pit one Constitutional right against another. What happens when the right of one group to live according to its religious convictions clashes with the right of another group to be free of what it claims is discrimination? What happens when homosexuals demand that Christians grant them all of the rights and privileges of the church, privileges such as being ordained as ministers or receiving the church’s blessing to marry a person of the same sex and have a church wedding? Further, what happens when homosexuals demand that Christian pastors stop teaching that homosexuality is at odds with Holy Scripture? Alleged discrimination versus free speech and religious freedom: Is this a case of the unstoppable projectile meeting the immovable object?

The battle over gay rights versus religious rights intensified recently when the mayor of Houston, Texas tried to bully pastors into suppressing their Biblical views as well as their right to free speech. The pastors stood their ground and the backlash against the mayor was deafening, but this was just one skirmish in a much larger battle. Of course, the most important question concerning the battle over gay rights versus religious rights is this: How will the decision be made concerning which of these group’s rights prevails? Will the courts base their decision on the Constitution where all of the precedents favor religious freedom or will they go with the flow of ever-changing social trends and ignore the Constitution in favor of the homosexual movement?

For the moment most of the skirmishes in the battle over gay rights revolve around same-sex marriage. But an even bigger battle looms in the future. This bigger battle will focus on the irreconcilable differences between the church and the homosexual community. As the battle unfolds, many churches will simply give in to the demands of homosexuals and do such things as ordain gay pastors and agree to ignore or suppress Scriptural teachings on homosexuality. A few churches that value the approval of the world over the authority of Scripture or that are too timid to enter the fray are already doing these things.

On the other hand, there are still churches that look to Scripture as their authority rather than the ever-changing social norms of the secular world. Some of these churches are standing their ground and will continue to do so, as was shown recently by the pastors in Houston. This is why the battle of gay rights versus religious rights is heating up. The fundamental question that interests political scientists in the battle of gay rights versus religious rights is this: Who wins when gay rights clash with religious rights? Another way to ask the question is when two fundamental rights clash, which one takes precedence? One side argues for the right to be free from what it believes is discrimination. The other side argues for the right to live according to one’s religious beliefs and to be free to exercise its First Amendment rights, even when doing so is not politically correct.

Todd Starnes, author of God Less America, has this to say about the battle: “I believe we are just a few years away from American pastors being brought up on charges of hate speech against homosexuals. I believe we will see attempts made to shut down churches and remove Bibles from public libraries—all because of what the Scriptures teach about homosexuality.” According to Starnes, Americans already believe that the rights of homosexuals take precedence over the rights and objections of Christians. For example, he relates in his book that 52 percent of Americans believe that wedding businesses can be required through government coercion to provide their services to same-sex couples in spite of religious objections.

As was shown in the Houston, Texas situation one of the weapons that will be used by homosexual crusaders to silence the church is the nebulous concept of hate speech. As things stand now, radical homosexuals consider anything said in opposition to their worldview to be hate speech. Putting aside for the moment the fact that the whole concept of hate speech is questionable from a Constitutional perspective, hate speech cannot be allowed to be interpreted as anything said in opposition to homosexuality. If Christians took a stand that anything said in opposition to their worldview is hate speech, most American liberals would be in jail now. Homosexuals may be insulted or even angered by the words of those who oppose their worldview, but it was precisely this type of speech the First Amendment was written to protect.

Take away the hate-speech weapon and the homosexual movement has little left to use in attacking the church, and taking away this weapon is where advocates of religious freedom should be concentrating their efforts. If disagreeing with homosexuality qualifies as hate speech, then a lot of Christians are going to be fed to the lions because Scripture clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, the time has come for church leaders to challenge the very concept of hate speech and to do so in the federal courts as well as the court of public opinion. As long as homosexuals are allowed to get away with their hate speech ruse, the debate over gay rights versus religious rights is a debate in which only one side will be heard.