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'Protect My Ministry' Tour Comes to Southwest Florida

Pier-Luc Bergeron via Flickr Creative Commons

The social conservative non-profit Florida Family Policy Council brings its state-wide “Protect My Ministry” tour to Southwest Florida this week.  The 14 city tour provides workshops aimed at helping pastors Christian school principals and other religious leaders to get the most out of religious constitutional protections. Seminar instructors also teach proactive steps churches and other religious groups can take to protect themselves from discrimination lawsuits by making changes to their organizations’ bylaws.  

Florida Family Policy Council President and General Counsel John Stemberger says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide was the impetuous behind creating the tour.

“No less than four dissenting justices on the U.S. Supreme Court said, ‘Hey, Warning, Will Robinson!’  We’ve got a threat to religious liberty here that is very serious,’” said Stemberger.  “And if you look at what those dissenting justices say, they’re foreshadowing the things to come.  And so while pastors may be protected as we sit here today, we don’t know what’s going to happen four years from now or even four months from now.”

Stemberger says anti-discrimination ordinances designed to protect members of the LGBT community discriminate against Christians.

“They do nothing more than discriminate against Christians and specifically people who are exercising their faith outside the four falls of their church in the marketplace, in their communities, in their family lives,” said Stemberger.   “We think that these non-discrimination ordinances are just nothing more than weapons to punish Christians for simply trying to exercise their faith in public life.”

Stemberger is a supporter of the Pastor Protection Act filed for Florida’s 2016 state legislative session.  That measure, filed by State. Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, aims to shield churches and clergy members if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages including protections for a religious organization’s tax exempt status, government contracts, grants and licenses.

Nadine Smith, CEO of Florida’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, Equality Florida calls the bill an, “ugly show of animosity toward gay people,” pointing out that ministers can already refuse to marry same-sex couples.

The Florida Family Policy Council is also urging Gov. Rick Scott to end the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood in Florida and to cut Title X dollars to Planned Parenthood in Broward and Collier counties.

Stemberger says his primary issue for the state legislative session that kicks off in January is protecting religiously-based foster care and adoption agencies from discrimination lawsuits if they have a moral or religious objection to working with same-sex couples or gay individuals.  State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, sponsored a bill to do just that in the 2015 session, but the measure didn’t pass.

Stemberger’s “Protect My Ministry” tour comes to Fort Myers Wednesday for a morning workshop at the Sanibel Harbor Marriot and will be in Naples that afternoon for a seminar at the Olde Cypress Country Club.  Sessions in Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and the Villages are scheduled through Oct. 21.  

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