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York on TV: Voters must support marriage amendment
August 30, 2004
By David Roach

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 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 Nov. 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.

According to Walter Jones, however, 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.

But, according to Ricky Jones, 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.

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.”

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