Ky. voters must support marriage amendment, SBTS prof says in TV debate

Communications Staff — August 23, 2004

Defining marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman upholds biblical standards for the family and prevents activist judges from arbitrarily overthrowing accepted standards of morality, Hershael York said in a debate on Kentucky Educational Television Aug. 16.

York, who serves as Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that Kentucky voters must support a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution in order to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. The proposed amendment, which will be voted on November 2, would outlaw any marriage or civil union between homosexuals.

Appearing with York were Walter Jones, policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky; Ricky Jones, professor of Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville; and Albert Pennybacker, chair and CEO of the Clergy Leadership Network.

The marriage amendment “is a matter, at its core, of morality,” York said. “But also it’s a matter of whom … we want to define what marriage is, society itself or some judge sitting in a room somewhere that just decides to overthrow thousands of years of civilization on a whim.”

Contrary to claims made by proponents of homosexual marriage, an amendment to Kentucky’s state constitution would not take away any rights from homosexuals, York said. Rather, an amendment would take “a stand for what marriage is and always has been,” he said.

Ricky Jones countered York’s argument, saying that any law restricting homosexual marriage improperly marginalizes homosexuals. Such marginalizing is comparable to the discrimination against African Americans that took place in the United States following the Civil War, he said.

“People on the right overstate things,” Jones said. “I think it is interesting that Rev. York sees this (homosexual marriage) as a threat to civilization. … I think that is a very self-absorbed, arrogant, judgmental approach to this, which necessarily places people on the margins.”

According to Walter Jones, restricting homosexual marriage is different than discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her race. Racial discrimination is “an issue of biology. This is an issue of behavior,” he said.

If homosexual marriage becomes a legal reality, children raised by homosexual parents will be the ones who are truly “discriminated against,” Walter Jones said.

“Studies show that our children fare best when raised in an environment with a biologically married set of parents,” Walter Jones said. “Same-sex marriage, by definition, by default, will rob children of either a mother or a father.”

In addition to harming children, legalizing homosexual marriage would also set a precedent for state protection of other sexually immoral behaviors, York said.

According to Ricky Jones, however, any sexual behavior that does not harm others should be legal.

When asked by York whether he would be in favor of legalizing polygamy, Ricky Jones responded, “Individually, yes. … If people are doing things which they see as healthy in their lives without doing harm to others, I am not going to marginalize them.”

At one point in the program, a caller argued that Jesus did not consider homosexuality an immoral behavior because the Bible never records Him speaking against it. York responded by asserting that all Scripture is equally the Word of God and that a condemnation of homosexuality in Scripture written by Paul is equally authoritative as a condemnation recorded in the gospels.

“All of the Word of God is inspired,” York said. “… The inscripturated words of Paul were inspired by the Holy Spirit and carry the exact same authority as those of Jesus. So therefore, I make no distinction. Anything in the Scripture, Paul says ‘is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteous because it is God-breathed.’”

Pennybacker argued that York’s interpretation of Scripture is inappropriately literal. Pennybacker views the Bible “in much more complicated and comprehensive terms,” he said.

“There are many views of Scripture,” Pennybacker said. “And I obviously am not a literalist. I do not agree with a literal reading of [the] Bible. I agree with a thoughtful and reflective reading of [the] Bible, in which I enter into a relationship with the text.”

Such a reading of the Bible affirms love for one’s neighbor as a supreme value, Pennybacker said. Out of love for one’s neighbor, Christians should “affirm” homosexuals’ “right to make choices and their value,” he said.

York responded by saying that Pennybacker misrepresents the Scriptural concept of love. True Christian love attempts to prevent homosexuals from engaging in behavior that is harmful and destructive, he said.

“You define love wrongly,” York said. “I don’t love my son in a way that affirms his right to speed on the highway. I’m out to protect him from himself. They ask the question, ‘Who does homosexuality hurt?’ It hurts those who practice it.”

York said, “It is the job of society to encourage that which is beneficial to society. Two-parent heterosexual families are great for society. … Every society in the history of the world has had sexual laws, sexual taboos saying … what is permissible and what is not. And what a segment of our society is proposing to do is overthrow a taboo. I’m simply saying no.”

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