One of the top lawyers in the nation in the battle to protect traditional marriage, historically Christian lifestyle choices, parental rights and the key freedoms provided by the U.S. Constitution is warning that there eventually could be no lawyers left to take up those disputes. That's because of a recommendation before the State Bar of Arizona â€“ the organization that licenses attorneys â€“ to require all new lawyers to swear they won't let their personal religious perspective on homosexuality affect their representation of any client. Mathew Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, warns that the proposal is just the "tip of the iceberg."
According to reports in Arizona, the state bar is considering a major change to its existing oath that requires lawyers to affirm they won't "permit considerations of gender, race, age, nationality, disability or social standing to influence my duty of care" to clients.
The proposal in Arizona is to add "sexual orientation" to that list.
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The concept would demand that Christian lawyers affirm they would pursue child custody cases for lesbians and "marriage" rights for homosexuals just as they would pursue any other issue for clients, regardless of their religious perspective.
Not agreeing to the demand would end a Christian lawyer's career before it even starts, since attorneys cannot practice law without bar association permission.
Already, several dozen attorneys have sent a letter objecting to the plan, and concern has been raised by the online Catholic.org report.
"Are these lawyers going to be excluded from their profession because of their religious beliefs? Or will they have to give up their beliefs in order to continue practicing?" the report asked.
"The Catholic Church teaches that: 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.," Catholic Online continued. "Does this mean that all Catholic lawyers in the state of Arizona will now either have to apostatize from the faith or lose their jobs?"
Staver has argued in courts across the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court, on a wide range of fundamental constitutional questions. He's appeared to discuss constitutional issues on "The O'Relly Factor," "Hannity and Colmes," "Good Morning American," the "Today" show and others. He said Arizona's plan isn't unique, citing controversial provisions already in force in Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
But he said Arizona's proposal is broader, and therein could lie considerable discrimination against Christians.
"It is a disturbing trend," he said.
"It opens a wide door (against) people like us who defend traditional marriage," he said. "We're not going to represent someone who's engaged in the homosexual lifestyle and the issue deals with that matter.
"Obviously from our perspective, we would take that into consideration," he said.
Staver said the change actually would require Christian lawyers to endorse and support the homosexual lifestyle choice that their deeply held religious beliefs may not allow.
"What if you represent someone in a divorce and you're the attorney of record. Afterwards this person enters into a lesbian lifestyle and wants a change of custody. They want the child. That presents Christian attorneys with a conflict with their religious beliefs. Would (that Christian lawyer) want to continue to represent that person?" he asked. "It would be pushing that child into a homosexual lifestyle."
Staver said he's seen the threat to lawyers coming for some time already.
"We've talked about the fact one of the major threats coming down the road as Christian attorneys is bar regulations with regard to homosexuality," he said. "What we're seeing in Arizona is the tip of the iceberg.
"If they can license you out of defending traditional morality, they can eventually capture the whole court system. There would be nobody left to defend traditional marriage," he said.
Staver said there already are a number of bar association codes preventing lawyers from "denigrating" others such as opposing counsel. For example, remarks on race or sex are disallowed.
When homosexuality is given the special protected status previously reserved for issues like race, Christians face choices for which there is no right answer, he said.
"These are significant threats," Staver said. "It further illustrates the conflict between the homosexual agenda and the Christian world view."
He noted the attacks already have begun. Opposing lawyers in lesbian custody dispute in which Liberty Counsel is participating already have asked the court to fine Staver's organization $100,000, accusing the group of being "engaged in a nationwide effort to take away rights of gays and lesbians," he said.
Such attacks on Christian lawyers mirror attacks already taking place on Christian churches because of their biblical disapproval of the homosexual livestyle.
Staver's organization is working on one such case, a discrimination complaint brought by two lesbians who were denied permission to rent a Christian group's facilities for a "ceremony."
That pending situation involves the United Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which has been accused by the government in New Jersey of discriminating against a self-described lesbian duo, Luisa Paster and Harriet Bernstein, who were denied permission to rent a church pavilion.
The pavilion is on church-owned beachfront property near Asbury Park and had been open to the public for decades under an agreement reached between the church and the local government.
One of the provisions of the agreement was that the pavilion would be open to the public "on an equal basis," according to the report from Liberty Counsel. But in 2007 the state adopted a new definition of equal, granting civil union rights to same-sex couples. The lesbians wanted the pavilion, the church refused on grounds its religious beliefs did not allow that, and the state now is pursuing a discrimination case.