Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes revived the right-wing canard that churches will face lawsuits and even criminal charges unless they begin performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.
In a July 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes continued his push to frame LGBT rights as a dire threat to religious liberty, quoting a pastor who warns that "it's just a matter of time" before it's a crime to preach that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage should only be between a man and a woman:
Joe Carr believes a day is fast approaching when pastors will be charged with hate crimes for preaching that homosexuality is a sin and churches will face lawsuits for refusing to host same-sex weddings.
"It's just a matter of time," said Carr, the pastor of Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia. "What's happening in Europe - we're going to see happen here and we're going to see it happen sooner rather than later I'm afraid."
Starnes failed to cite a single example of a pastor facing sanctions for preaching against homosexuality in the U.S., nor could he come up with any instances in which a church incurred the wrath of the state for not performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Instead, his column included a laundry list of cases which ostensibly prove the danger LGBT rights pose to Americans' religious liberty:
American pastor Scott Lively was sued in a United States federal court for preaching in Uganda that homosexuality is a sin. Sexual Minorities Uganda accused him of inciting the persecution of homosexuals during a 2009 mission trip to the country.
And a number of Christian-owned companies have come under legal attack for their opposition to homosexuality.
Hands On Originals, a Lexington, Ken. t-shirt company, was investigated by the city's Human Rights Commission after they refused to print shirts for a local gay rights group.
The state of Washington is suing a small flower shop after the owner declined to provide flowers for a gay wedding.
Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash., is facing thousands of dollars in fines and penalties for allegedly violating the state's Consumer Protection Act.
For a column titled "Churches Fear Lawsuits over Gay Weddings" these are some curious examples to cite. None of them have anything whatsoever to do same-sex marriage laws and their consequences for churches.
Starnes' claim that Lively was sued merely for "preaching ... that homosexuality is a sin" is a blatant falsehood. Lively was an enthusiastic backer of proposed legislation that would have made homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda.
The Kentucky investigation, meanwhile, stemmed from an apparent violation of a non-discrimination law - not a marriage law. It's a similar story to the Arlene's Flowers case in Washington state. The state's Consumer Protection Act prohibits businesses from discriminating against consumers based on sexual orientation, so the refusal to provide flowers to a same-sex couple would still have constituted illegal discrimination even if Washington did not have marriage equality.
In reality, marriage equality laws are about extending the full rights of civil marriage to same-sex couples - something entirely different from religious marriage ceremonies. It's a distinction that seems entirely lost on one of Fox's most rabid homophobes.