If the Left can’t physically stop pastors from preaching the truth about human sexuality and God’s design for marriage, it will find other ways to intimidate them into silence. The latest front in the cultural struggle over freedom of religion and free speech involves the business realm, where pastors of small churches by necessity work a secular job to support a family while leading a small church flock.
Brandon Huber is the lead pastor of Clinton Community Church in Clinton, Montana, population: 757. He’s also a real estate agent and a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In 2020, NAR adopted a policy forbidding members from engaging in “harassing speech” or “hate speech.”
However, the policy applies not just to members’ work in real estate, but to their private lives as well. For a Bible-believing pastor, the policy spelled trouble for him. And it didn’t take long.
Someone caught wind of Huber’s church backing out of a local lunch program run by a food bank because of the pro-LGBT fliers the food bank included with the lunches. So, they filed a complaint with the local affiliate of NAR.
What did Huber actually say that got him into such hot water?
In a letter to his congregants – along with a posting on a local Clinton community group Facebook page – Huber wrote:
“This year, as well as the past two years, we have partnered with the Missoula Food Bank for the ‘Kids Eat Free’ summer lunch program. This has been a great honor for us to be able to support the kids and families in our community with these meals throughout the summer months. This past week we found printed material in the lunches that we were handing out, that went against our biblical doctrine.
“After conversations with the food bank, we have found out that our beliefs and that of the Missoula Food Bank do not align. Due to this, Clinton Community Church has decided to end our partnership with the Missoula food bank effective today July 2, 2021.”
Huber’s message was neither hateful nor harassing. And it certainly had nothing to do with Huber’s real estate practice. But if he’s found to have violated the NAR speech code, he could be fined $5,000, face a suspension or termination of his membership privileges, including denial of access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is the bread-and-butter tool of all successful real estate agents.
But Huber is fighting back. He’s filed a lawsuit alleging that the NAR’s code of ethics is violating his state constitutional rights. Even though NAR is not a government entity, the Montana Constitution provides that, “Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas (emphasis added).”
Bi-vocational pastors are vital to small towns in rural America, and people like Huber ought to be free to practice a profession such as real estate without being punished for what they say from the pulpit or in a pastoral letter. And that right ought to extend to all real estate agents, not just bi-vocational pastors. NAR is seeking to punish the views and speech of its members that are totally unrelated to their professional responsibilities. That’s a dangerous threat.
The NAR rule’s impact is not limited to Montana. Recently, a Christian realtor in Minnesota gave up his real estate license rather than be potentially subject to NAR’s punishment of his private views about biblical sexual ethics.
And real estate is not the only profession where industry groups are attempting to force Christians to remain silent in their private lives about subjects like homosexuality. Since 2015, Christian lawyers and bar groups have been fighting a proposed ethics rule from the liberal American Bar Association that, if adopted by any state, would impose sanctions for lawyers who express, even privately, their support for biblical sexuality and marriage.
The NAR speech code, and others like it, ought to be roundly opposed by all professionals, and condemned by the rest of us. Hopefully, in Huber’s lawsuit, his rights will also be protected under his state constitution.
The case is Huber v. Missoula Organization of Realtors, Inc.
Photo from Shutterstock.