The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Once a church petitions to become a creation of the state via incorporation—and that becomes finalized—that church has surrendered first amendment protection respecting religion. Any church or ministry that incorporates, as a 501c3, is essentially transformed from a church or ministry into a business, replete with officers and board of directors. Civil law—not the U.S. Constitution—now dictates what is legal and not legal for the newly created “Juristic Person” that church or ministry has now become. A Juristic Person is the legal concept that corporations are liable to the same laws as ‘natural persons’ and are treated by the law, for some purposes, as if they were persons. And some citizens, with regard to juristic persons, have been exercising their First Amendment rights in petitioning their government for redress of grievances.
Now this can be scary stuff for churches and other Christian organizations which have exchanged powerful constitutional rights for relatively precarious civil rights. A constitutionally free church is not only tax free, but also, within reason, has the right to practice their religion, even in areas where women might be discriminated against. A constitutionally free church might be able to get away with refusing to train women for the pastorship or withholding plum (and we might add some highly paying) leadership positions from women. But can a juristic person, who is a creation of the state with basically no constitutional rights, do the same without legal responsibility? What about religious organizations that are not churches whose sole existences, or at least a great deal of their agendas, are dedicated to the promotion of institutional discrimination against women? Where First Amendment rights have been exchanged for civil rights, where is constitutional protection? No one can deny that discrimination against women by many church and ministry corporations is flagrant, and it is being brought into question whether these 501c3 tax exempt corporations are operating illegally with respect to the civil rights of women.
Not only are civil human rights of women being violated, but women and families are sometimes being greatly harmed through the anti-woman teachings. Women have been known to suffer physical injury or death as a direct result of the anti-woman propaganda spewing from the sewers of male dominant religious organizations. Some parents, children and loved ones of women who have died (from injuries inflicted by physically violent husbands goaded by anti-woman ministries), are holding some “Juristic Persons” responsible for teachings that cause violent husbands to feel they must be diligent in expressing their supremacy over women (else they could be labeled wimps or passive and suffer the ridicule of other men). Courts are ruling that such teachings have been found to be directly responsible for injury or death.
Pastors and Christian leaders may feel safe from legal action by Christians, hiding behind scripture that forbids Christians from suing one another in secular courts over money or property (no scripture forbids legal recourse for injury or death), but many Christians sue anyway. And Christians are realizing that “Juristic Persons” are not, and indeed cannot, be considered Christians. They are therefore not protected by Biblical injunction against lawsuit.
Let us step outside of the religious arena into the secular workplace. How many families are forced into reduced standards of living because single mothers have been denied jobs, job promotions, or raises due to Christian employers or supervisors who hold sacred beliefs concerning female subordination. This is important, because the sacred belief system taught by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), which has been adopted wholesale within Christian media organizations, Christian political organizations, churches, seminaries, and many Christian educational institutions, demands expression.
The theology of the CBMW is called, Complementarianism, which teaches male headship over all women in every area of life. Complementarian teaching essentially forbids women to hold positions of authority over men except within the parameters of serving under a male “covering” or a male “head.” Would that not preclude women from being promoted to the highest levels of achievement in many businesses which may be run or greatly influenced by complementarian males? Women are suing, and the responsibility for their human rights being violated might not end with just their employers. Savvy Lawyers are seeing that responsibility may extend to those who are directly influencing and even encouraging male employers to perpetrate the violations.
As human rights for women have increased, so has the backlash. Complementarian leaders are showing more resolve than ever in efforts to achieve the complete overthrow of women. Is it coincidence that anti-birth control religion is no longer a fringe element of Christianity? A recent press release on the Christian Newswire reads, "Contraception is a most potent destroyer of marital harmony…." With the National Association of Free Will Baptists, and with Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world—publishing broad hints that sexual intimacy should always be paired with a desire to conceive, the idea of practicing birth-control being anti-Christ and anti-family is going mainstream. That is doing some powerful meddling into the personal lives of autonomous adults and is becoming a veritable fertility cult which has resulted in disaster in some cases.
Andrea Yates, the clinically psychotic, homeschooling, mother who drowned her five children in the bathtub, was in a marriage which was heavily influenced by fertility Christianity (commonly known as quiverfull, a concept now creeping into mainstream thought and practice). Yates’ doctor had warned her husband that her unstable mental and emotional condition made it a dangerous idea for her to have any more children. Most Americans are familiar with how the story ended. Undoubtedly, husbands, children, parents, grandparents, and other bereaved loved ones [of these dead women and/or children] have entertained the idea of suing the juristic persons behind the preachers.
Doug Phillips of Vision Forum encourages women to martyr themselves on the altars of ectopic pregnancies. The popular Duggar family (who recommends Vision Forum as a faith building tool for families) is a Quiverful family trying to appear mainstream. The Quiverful concept goes beyond complementarianism with regard to female subjugation. In many Quiverful families, higher education and voting are denied to women. Homeschooled female children have been known to receive inferior education to male children. The legality of this has been questioned by the courts.
It is no secret that many juristic persons are mega-501c3 tax exempt corporations with deep pockets, so hasn’t it been simply a matter of time before someone got around to asking, “Is it legal for state created corporations to practice and promote policies of institutionalized, gender-based, discrimination?”
This post is a reprint of the first FreeCWC newsletter published in 2010
WHAT CAN WE DO TO END COMPLEMENTARIAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN?
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