Category Archives: Law

When A Sin Becomes A Crime

20150712_210956_resized-1The church has long taught that sex outside of marriage is a sin.   People who’ve spent any amount of time in evangelical, apostolic, or fundamentalist churches are familiar with verses like, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.”  (I Thessalonians 4:3 KJV)   Forget hunger, poverty, and unemployment.   Sex outside of marriage is what makes the church cringe on any given Sunday.   For the record, the word “fornication” used in the biblical text is taken from the Greek word porneia, which means selling off or surrendering sexual purity and promiscuity of any and every type’.   Marital status isn’t mentioned in the original Greek definition of fornication.

You’ll notice that I’ve highlighted the words surrendering and promiscuity.   That’s because some people don’t seem to understand that “promiscuously surrendering” is NOT the same as being forced to engage in sexual activity.   Being forced to engage in sexual activity is sexual assault at the least, and rape at most.

Why am I making this distinction?   Well, in case you haven’t heard, a major Christian organization has come under fire for overlooking reports of rape and sexual assault.   No, the organization isn’t a mega church or a religious denomination’s national or state conference.   The major Christian organization I’m talking about is Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist University.

Over the course of the last several years, several female students have come forward and reported being sexually assaulted or raped by members of the Baylor University football team.   The university, however, didn’t appropriately investigate these reports.   In fact, according to one news report, the University didn’t look into the allegations made by at least one young lady until 2 years after she reported the assault!

A columnist, who is also a member of a prominent family, many of whom are Baylor graduates, recently wrote that for religious schools like Baylor, “the question is how to balance the country’s encouragement of sexual assault victims to come forward with the school’s rules that restrict sexual behavior.”

According to Baylor’s sexual conduct policy students, faculty and staff are expected to express sexual intimacy in the context of marital fidelity.

Surely, this prominent columnist can’t be suggesting that sexual assault is an act of intimacy.  But it sounds like this is exactly what he is implying: that because the policy prohibits sexual intimacy outside of marriage, persons who are sexually assaulted are reluctant to report these actions to campus leaders because they have engaged in a prohibited sexual intimacy.  No they haven’t engaged in an intimacy!  They’ve been criminally assaulted.  Sexual assault is NOT the sexual behavior that is addressed in Baylor’s policy on sexual conduct.   This is a bunch of double talk.  And quite frankly, it’s a bunch of bull.

I believe (and some might even agree) that Baylor’s leadership failed to appropriately address the reports of these young ladies who alleged to have been sexually assaulted by members of the football team for one reason.  MONEY!  When the football team started winning and finished with a championship win in 2010 under head coach Art Briles, big bucks started rolling in for Baylor!  The leaders of this prominent Christian university didn’t just delay looking into a sexual conduct policy violation between consenting adults. These leaders turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to sexual crimes on their Christian campus!  And an attempt to reframe the issue of a crime in terms of a policy violation is an epic fail.

Sexual activity outside of marriage may be a sin.  But sexual assault is a crime.  It’s time for Baylor and the many faces of the faith community including colleges, universities, secondary schools, churches, fellowships and religious conferences to put as much attention on crime as they do on sin.


No written portion of this article may be used without obtaining written permission from the author.

Copyright © 2016 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

Henrico, VA 23228 – phone 202-854-1963 – email:

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @kanishaladkins


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20150712_210956_resized-1Kim Davis, Clerk of the Court in Rowan County, Kentucky has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Now she’s being sued, has been arrested and is sitting in jail for refusing to do her job. Davis doesn’t just see it as her job.  She holds fast to her religious beliefs that “marriage is between one man and one woman” and that same sex marriage “is not of God.”[1] For Davis, issuing a marriage license to a same sex couple is a matter of “Heaven or hell.”[2]

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, who wrote the ruling ordering Davis to issue the licenses, said that Davis has likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection against the establishment of a religion by “openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expenses of others.”   Judge Bunning went on to say, “Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do…However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk” and Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky has told defiant clerks, who are elected, to issue the licenses or resign.[3]

Issue the license or resign?   Are those the only options?   Perhaps there is at least one more option.   One that is not so far to the left or to the right, but a happy medium.   Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers “to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would pose an undue hardship to the employer.  A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his [or her] religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.”[4]

A reasonable accommodation, perhaps removing issuance of marriage licenses from Davis’s duties and giving this duty to other deputy clerks, might be a viable solution.   She gets to keep her job and NOT violate her religious beliefs.   But employers aren’t required to offer reasonable accommodations. It’s the employee’s responsibility to request it. I’m not sure if this option has been discussed by Davis and her attorney.   The fact that neither Davis nor her attorney requested a religious accommodation causes me to raise an eyebrow.

Perhaps Ms. Davis has as much vanity about her name appearing on marriage licenses as she has conscience against same sex marriage.    After all, she’s been the clerk of the court for years.   If her only concern is not violating HER religious beliefs and conscience, then all that is needed is an accommodation, just for her!   But the fact that she does not even want the deputy clerks to sign the licenses sounds more like Ms. Davis wants her religious beliefs to be adopted by all.   That’s not how an accommodation works.   Religious accommodations are given to individual people not groups or entities.   A religious accommodation is Ms. Davis’s happy medium between being in jail and being in hell.

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No written portion of any article on this site may be shared without giving credit to the author. Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.






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20150712_210956_resized-1A few weeks ago, people of various races, genders and faiths began America’s Journey for Justice in Selma Alabama, marching across the southern states. The march is being led by the NAACP to highlight and to continue to address racial justice issues and is scheduled to end in Washington, D. C. in mid-September. When the justice marchers reach the nation’s capital, we who truly believe in ‘liberty and justice for all’, will fervently declare that our votes, our jobs, our schools and our lives matter!

…I have no doubt that change will come and justice will be, once and for all, also on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized and the disenfranchised. After all, I’ve heard that God is the God of the oppressed. And God wins, right?!…

But change has a tendency to come slowly. Someone once said, “The wheels of justice grind slowly”. The problem with these slow grinding wheels is that people are dying AND being killed very quickly. And that death is not just physical. The death is economic, financial, social, emotional, psychological, mental, and every other way that we can describe our existence in this world.

We can’t (or I can’t) turn on the T.V., log onto the internet or glance at a smartphone or tablet without seeing the name of yet another person, primarily African American and primarily male, whose life has been cut short.  Every time we turn around we here of “trickery”, both legal and illegal tactics, at election polls to suppress voting rights, primarily the rights of people who are poor and disenfranchised. We are constantly hearing of poor people being forced out of their neighborhoods because of gentrification, with no place to go to make a decent home or an honest living. We are constantly hearing of failing inner city school systems. It looks pretty bleak!

But even in light of and in spite of what I see, I have hope. I have hope because I’m a woman of faith, I believe God wins and I believe that everyone on God’s side wins! I believe justice will come! But it won’t come fast. And it won’t come easy. And when that ‘delayed justice’ happens, what are we supposed to do? What happens when our cry for justice is lifted up to the governing powers and they stall like a deer caught in headlights? What are the consequences when we, the people, cry out and demand justice but justice is not given?

The answers, I believe, can be found in many places, two of which are the Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America. There are so many passages in the Bible that speak of justice and the responsibility of those who are genuinely on God’s side. The passages are too numerous to list but here are a few that address our responsibility for justice:

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8-9); “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3); “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17); “… let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24); “… what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8); and last but not least, “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

This last verse, “justice, and only justice, you shall follow” leads me to the United States Constitution, which says:

“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it [the government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” (

In other words, when governing bodies and systems become unjust, the citizens, who, in good faith, put these governing bodies and systems into place, are empowered and mandated by the Constitution to make a change.  AND when people are being oppressed by unjust governing bodies and systems, the people of God are empowered and mandated by the Bible to change unjust systems.

There it is! In black and white! In sacred and secular text! We, the people, have the right and the obligation to right wrongs, to bring justice to unjust systems on behalf of those who are pushed out to the edges of society. In spite of this dual dose of empowerment from sacred and secular text, our society has embraced a sense of complacency. I know that some people will quote the verse, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” I agree! Vengeance belongs to God. But God has commissioned us to seek justice. Justice and Vengeance are not the same thing!

When did we, the people of God (that is, those who claim to authentically follow God, who is holy, righteous and just) become so complacent in the pursuit of justice? When did we settle into the notion that we are only responsible for our personal salvation? Contrary to what we believe or what we want to believe, our relationship with God doesn’t stop with us. Even Jesus said to Peter, “When you are converted, strengthen the brothers,” (of course, this applies to sisters too.) (Luke 22:32).

And why are we, the people of God, so quiet when it comes to standing up for the rights of the oppressed?  Where did we get the notion that the pursuit of justice is a quiet pursuit? Our dainty, white gloves pursuit of justice makes me think of a Pine-sol commercial. One lady, writhing on the floor in a “dirt snuggler” says she’s gently cleaning and polishing the floor. Another lady asks, “And why would you want to treat dirt gently?” This is my question with regard to our gentle pursuit of justice. Why would we want to treat unjust systems gently?

Jesus, himself, was quite the activist and was known to turn over a table or two in the pursuit of justice and righteousness. (Matthew 21:12) What’s that you say? You say you love God? You say Jesus is your savior, your leader, your example? You say you believe in justice? Well, take a page from Jesus. Justice requires action. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)

As the people of God, we have no excuse NOT to seek justice. It is our obligation! As the people of God were are to follow justice ONLY! It is not enough for us to quietly assemble in our houses of worship and teaching, send up prayers and praise, and then return home to our own little corner, to our own little chair. We have been ordained, mandated and empowered to seek justice for the oppressed. To use a boxing metaphor. We’ve been in our corners too long, people of God! It’s time to come out swinging!


English Standard Version Bible

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

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Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.



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20150712_210956_resized-1Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.  I applaud the Supreme Court on how the decision was reached. The Court took great pains to explore the history and purposes of marriage. In fact, almost 4 pages of the 10 page opinion is devoted to tracing the history and development of marriage. The Court devotes considerable time to explaining how marriage evolved over the course of time for opposite-sex couples. Although most married men and women living in the United States in 2015 have the pleasure of choosing their spouses, this hasn’t always been the case. So the Court examines the initial framework of marriage, in which the couple’s parents arranged the marriage for religious, political and financial reasons. Eventually the laws and practices changed to allow men and women to choose spouses for themselves. In 2015, we are the beneficiaries of this change.

And just in case we continue to hold on to the delusion that, in 2015, like it is, is like it has always been, the Court reminds us that in the beginning of the institution of marriage, women were considered a non-entity. Their identities were merged into their husbands’ identities and they had no rights of their own. As women acquired legal, political and property rights, laws concerning married women changed to show that women had their own dignity, separate from and equal to their husband’s dignity.

And although the Court did not address the evils of slavery, let us not forget that when the United States was birthed out of its Declaration of Independence from England and labor was needed to establish and develop this great land, Africans were shipped in like cattle because they weren’t considered people, they were property. Only people had rights and since those of the African Diaspora weren’t people, they had no right in the eyes of the law to get married, not even to each other. Of course, the Court did not address the history of African descended peoples in this country finally being recognized as people and being allowed to marry each other. However, the Court did rely heavily on a “race” case, known today as The Loving Case.

In 1958, two Virginia residents, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman…

(yep! That’s what she was called in 1958, or at least, that’s the nicest name she was called)

…and Richard Loving, a White man, were married in the District of Columbia. Shortly after becoming married, the Lovings returned to their hometown in Virginia where they were indicted by a grand jury for violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage.   The law in Virginia in 1958 said, “If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.” In 1958 it was a FELONY for a “colored” and a white person to marry each other. The Lovings were both sentenced to one year in jail. But the kind judge, out of the goodness of his heart…

(right about now, I hope you’re hearing the sarcasm in my words)

…this kind judge suspended the Loving’s jail sentence on the condition that they leave the Commonwealth of Virginia and not return together for 25 years.

(So they could come back just not together as husband and wife)

 The Lovings moved to the District of Columbia and filed a lawsuit. Almost 9 years after they became husband and wife, the case finally made it to the highest court of the land, The Supreme Court of the United States of America! And the rest is history. Bottom line…the Court said that the Lovings’ rights under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment were being violated.

(Here’s a quick Constitutional law lesson)

The 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause says that no State government is allowed to take away a person’s constitutional right to life, LIBERTY, and property without a fair legal process. In other words, no one is to be arbitrarily or unfairly deprived of their basic constitutional rights, all willy nilly, without first being allowed to look at the issue through some kind of legal proceeding or procedure. We usually hear about Due Process in criminal cases. Due Process is what keeps people from losing their liberty, (in theory if not always in practice), being pronounced “guilty” and locked away forever by state and federal governments without first having the benefit of a trial before a jury of their peers. Is marriage a constitutional right? Well, no and yes. The Constitution doesn’t specifically address marriage. But it does address liberty. The right to marry is a liberty and liberties are protected by the Constitution. The Lovings had a liberty under the Due Process Clause to choose to marry each other, different race and all, and the State could not take it away. That’s what Due Process is about!

Now, the Equal Protection Clause, also in the 14th Amendment, says that everyone in the United States must be treated equally and that if you’re going to discriminate against them, you better have a damn good reason.

(Well, that’s not exactly what it says, but that’s exactly what it means).

And when it came to Virginia saying that the Lovings couldn’t get married, the Court said that race was not a good reason.

The Loving case was in 1967. Today, we don’t think twice or bat an eye (at least not from a legal standpoint) when people of different races decide to get married. If the issue were race today in 2015, most people in this country would be up in arms: protesting, picketing, having sit-ins and lie-ins, social media campaigns and anything else that might remotely further the cause of allowing people of different races to marry each other. Today, to most people, it seems utter ridiculous and completely crazy that people would be banned from choosing to marry someone of another race. Today it sounds crazy. But when the Lovings filed their lawsuit, it not only made sense in Virginia, but it made sense to about 15 others states who made interracial marriages illegal. But that was the world of 1967 and the issue was race.

Today, it’s 2015 and the issue is same-sex marriage. In 1967 the problem was that the two people didn’t look alike. Today, the problem is that the two people look too much alike! The players may have changed but the rules haven’t. And basically, that’s what the Supreme Court said regarding same-sex marriage. The Court said that people have the right to choose who they want to marry, even if they are both of the same sex. And to deny them this right is a violation of their rights under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

(And although I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again.)

State governments can’t legally take away a person’s liberty/freedom to marry a person of the same sex without going through a fair legal process. Without a fair legal process such action is illegal! And, unless there’s a really REALLY good, LEGAL reason, State governments can’t discriminate against people, simply because they choose to marry someone of the same sex.

Right about now, you may be asking, “But do we really have to say people of the same sex can marry each other? According to the Court, yes we do because it is the government that has given certain benefits, rights and responsibilities to married couples. It is the government that has given married couples such benefits as inheritance and property rights and the right to receive property when a spouse dies but there is no last will and testament. It is the government that has given married couples such benefits as spousal privilege under the laws of evidence so that husbands and wives cannot be made to testify against each other in court. It is the government that has given married couples such rights as medical decision-making authority and the right to be listed as a recipient under one another’s health insurance plans. It is the government that has created these and so many more rights and benefits. The government has decided that marriage should and does have certain legal benefits and rights.

The problem is that until June 2015, many state governments were clinging to a rule that only married couples consisting of a man and a woman were to have the rights and benefits created by the government. The Supreme Court has decided otherwise and has made the observation that same-sex couples simply desire to have the same benefits and rights that are given to opposite-sex couples. Since marriage is the vehicle that gives these rights to opposite-sex couples, then same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

So there you have it. The Supreme Court, the highest court of the land in the United States of America, has made its decision. So it is written! So it shall be done! (Ironically, that line is from the movie The Ten Commandments).

I know many of my friends and family in their respective faith communities are still reeling from the Court’s decision but this is a legal decision. This is a decision about law. The Court’s decision has absolutely nothing to do with religion or religious beliefs. And you have to ask yourself (or at least, I’d ask myself), if the Court based its decision on religion, whose religion would be the basis for the decision? Close to three quarters of people in the United States identify themselves as Christians. But we can’t just assume that the Court would follow Christian doctrines if religion were the basis for its decision. Because if we did, then the issue for 2015 would be whether there has been a violation of the 1st Amendment, which says the government may not make any law to establish a particular religion AND government may not prevent people from freely exercising their religions.

Now we’ve come full circle and we’re back at square one.   To the communities of faith, whatever your faith may be, if we are fully persuaded that marriage between people of the same-sex is a sin or bad karma or just plain wrong, we are protected by the First Amendment. We have the right to not celebrate, recognize or condone same-sex marriage. Freedom of religion is still intact…

…and same-sex couples have the right to marry.


(Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U. S. __, 2015).

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967)


No written portion of any article on this site may be shared without giving credit to the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

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20150712_210956_resized-1It’s official! Fifty times over, IT’S OFFICIAL!   ALL 50 states of the United States of America are now required to allow same-sex couples the right to marry and the right to be recognized as married. This was the ruling handed down by the United States Supreme Court in June 2015.

And the world heaved a collective sigh! Well…maybe not the whole world but perhaps the United States? No, not everyone in the United States but just same-sex couples and those who support same-sex couples’ right to marry.   The rest of the country, however, rather than joining in with the collective sigh, cried out “Woe is me!” “Armageddon!” and “The end is near!” The reason for the cries of woe? I’m pretty sure there are some people who are distraught by the Court’s decision because of their good old-fashion traditional values and these values say that marriage is for opposite-sex couples. But I’m also pretty confident that the basis for these good old-fashion traditional values is that “God” intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman. In other words, religion is the primary reason for the outcry against same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

I am well versed in one faith tradition, namely Christianity, and not so much in others, like Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, to name a few. One thing I know about Christianity and Judaism, that may also be true in other faith traditions, is that it is against their religious beliefs for a man to have sex with another man. And although their original religious texts may not specifically address it, we can assume (or we do assume) it is equally impermissible for a woman to have sex with another woman.

As a woman of faith, I completely understand and empathize with other people of faith who believe it is wrong for people of the same sex to engage in sexual activity. This is what we have been taught in the Church for centuries, since the beginning of time. And if same-sex sexual activity is banned, then same-sex marriage is absolutely out of the question. This is a long-standing, well-established, traditional religious belief. And in America, people have a right to their religious beliefs, in theory and in practice.

People who believe that homosexuality is wrong because of religious reasons should not be attacked, verbally or physically, because of their beliefs. And neither the federal nor state governments should force people with long-standing beliefs against homosexuality to accept, embrace, support or promote it. I believe the source of the outcry from people who believe that same sex relationships are wrong is that, like it or not, individuals of faith and congregations of faith will be required by law to accept, embrace, support and promote same-sex marriage or risk being found in violation of the law.

I’ve been out of law school for decades and I don’t make a habit of reading court opinions anymore. But I’ve always believed “knowledge is power” and “reading is fundamental”. So I decided to return to my law school roots and read the Court’s majority opinion…

(In all fairness, 3 Supreme Court justices dissented or disagreed with the majority of 5 justices. But let’s be clear. A dissenting opinion carries as much legal authority as a confederate battle flag. It may carry a lot of emotion and may even sound reasonable to some people, but it represents a lost cause.)

So, I’ve read the Court’s majority opinion. And to my brothers and sisters in the Church (and other faith traditions), who are crying “foul”, this is what I discovered. The Supreme Court agrees with you!   Nowhere in the Court’s opinion did the justices say that churches and other faith-based/religious groups would be required to co-sign same-sex marriage. In fact, the Court said exactly the opposite. Specifically, the Court said “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” And the Court reaffirmed that religious organizations and religious persons are protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States with the right “to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

In my opinion, this is some pretty strong language in favor of religious organizations and religious persons. This is what religious organizations and religious persons want, the right to hold fast to the tenets of their faiths which condemn same-sex marriage, right? Yet, despite what appears to me to be strong, protective language, the outcry of the religious is still being heard…


My first guess is that most of those who are crying doom and gloom haven’t read the Court’s opinion. Court opinions are not rocket science but on the flip side they are not an ‘easy read’ either. Many people will not take the time to read the Court’s opinion but will chose instead to accept reports from network news reporters and newspapers. But most news reporters have failed to give adequate, if any, attention to the rights that religious organizations and religious persons continue to have with regard to their faith and same-sex marriage. Most people don’t know that the Court addressed the rights of religious organizations in its decision. And a knee-jerk reaction has church officials calling special church meetings so that they can add language to their church constitutions saying that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Organizations are re-writing their constitutions when they haven’t read the Court’s decision.

But even after these organizations add their desired language and definitions of marriage, the outcry will continue. (Once again, why?) I would dare to say it is because the Court did not completely side with religion and condemn same-sex marriage. Instead, the Court affirmed that religious organizations and persons have a right, under the 1st Amendment to reject same-sex marriage AND then they had the audacity to declare that same-sex couples also have the right to marry under this same Constitution, namely the 14th Amendment.

I understand that dogma will prevent some people from wanting to be informed about how the Court could both affirm the rights of the religious community and, at the same time, grant a right that is so obviously against what many religious communities believe. But if the Bible and other sacred texts are correct, we are mandated to understand. “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom; with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7, ASV).

So to my friends of faith, I have a question: Are you willing to come off of the defensive position for a few minutes, take  your spiritual boxing gloves off, have a seat and get some understanding? If so, read Part 2 of FAITH & SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.


American Standard Bible

(Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U. S. __, 2015).


No written portion of any article on this site may be shared without giving credit to the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.

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