Playing to a packed house at the Northern Hotel last night in Billings, Todd Starnes of FOX News keynoted Montana Family Foundations Friends of the Family Banquet.  For those who don’t know, Todd is the Social Issues Correspondent for FOX News who last week broke the story of the Five Houston Pastors who had been ordered to turn over personal emails, sermon notes, and correspondence related to Houston’s recently passed Non Discrimination Ordinance (NDO).

Starnes, who describes himself as a gun-toting, chicken-eating, son-of-a-Baptist, brought the house down with his mixture of humor, poignancy, and snarkiness.  The event, filled with politicians, judges, business leaders, and a huge number of pastors, could best be described as an update on the Culture War.  Todd Starnes discussed the threats to Faith, Family & Freedom on the national level, and I spoke about what’s happening right here in Montana.  We talked about where we’ve been, where we are currently, and where we’re going as a society.  Among other things, Starnes talked about Houston and the very real possibility that we may see pastors jailed for contempt as they refuse to hand over those private papers and emails.  It all started when a lawsuit was filed in connection with the effort to overturn Houston’s recently passed NDO, but the kicker was – these pastors and churches weren’t even involved in that lawsuit.  The take away is that pastors are allowed to preach on any issue they wish.  There are Supreme Court cases supporting that position, and it’s their right both under the Free Speech and Free Exercise provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Starnes then went on to talk about the pastors in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho who are being threatened with heavy fines and jail time for refusing to perform a same-sex wedding.  This case takes government intrusion into religious affairs to a whole new level, with fines and jail time amounting to a $1,000 per day and 180 days per day!  This is draconian, it’s a form of religious discrimination, and it’s un-American.  With their new-found right to marriage after a decision of a three judge panel by the 9th Circuit of Appeals, all of whom, incidentally, were appointed by Democrats, gay activists are now emboldened and they are actually targeting churches and people who run their businesses based on religious principles.  And we can expect to see hundreds more of these lawsuits in the coming year.

At issue is the guarantee of religious liberty itself and whether or not it will be allowed to continue.  Bills are already being drafted in the Montana Legislature that would add sexual orientation as a protected class under Montana Human Rights Law.  If these bills are allowed to pass, we’ll see the same thing happening right here in Montana.  Rest assured – our team will be right there at the Capitol doing everything in our power to stop this politically correct juggernaut.  If it’s allowed to continue, Montana and the United States will soon look like a very different place.