The Jerusalem District Court has ordered Moshav Yad Hashmonah, a community of Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians, to pay compensation to two lesbians after it refused to host a same-sex wedding reception. "We knew we were breaking the law. Somebody needed to do it." says Ayelet Ronen, general secretary for the village.
Judge Moshe Yoad Cohen upheld a lower court ruling that the Moshav violated a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
During the trial, representatives of the Moshav quoted from both Old and New Testaments. "We do not hate homosexuals or lesbians. We love them. We simply told the court that it is God's word in the Bible that calls homosexuality an abomination," Ronen told Israel Today.
She continues: "As a faith-based community we need to be able to refuse events that blatantly oppose our religious beliefs. We explained to the judge that a same-sex celebration would ruin our business. The majority of our clientele are Christians who vigorously oppose gay marriage."
The lesbians' lawyer accused members of Yad Hashmonah of "homophobia," pointing to an announcement published by the Moshav that "no homosexual or lesbian organization will be allowed to rent space for functions on our premises."
That announcement came in response to a flood of requests for same-sex celebrations on the Moshav from gays and lesbians hoping to pass more court decisions requiring the Messianic community to pay out huge compensations.
As a result, the Moshav was forced to shutter their events-hosting business, resulting in huge financial losses. "We used to host an average of 35-50 weddings a year over the past 12 years. Israelis from all over the country, religious and secular, loved to come here. Now there are none," says Ronen.
Judge Cohen held that the Moshav cannot refuse to host a same-sex wedding reception even if doing so goes against their own conscious. The Moshav's lawyer, Michael Decker, challenged that ruling, asking the judge, "What if a Catholic went to an Orthodox Jewish carpentry in [the ultra-Orthodox town of] Bnei Barack and asked them to build a statue of Mary? Would they have to build the idolatrous image?"
The judge replied: "They would have to make it or else be fined. That is the law."
Ronen says that the ruling demonstrates that "even the judge understood that current laws are not providing sufficient protections for religious communities."
According to Ronen, "a lot of religious Jews and rabbis have secretly told us 'good for you. We are glad that you take this stand.' But they will not stand with [Messianic Jews] to change the law. They hate us too much and would never work with us."
In his ruling, the judge upheld the earlier verdict of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, ordering Yad Hashmonah to pay the two lesbians damages of 60,000 shekels ($17,000) plus another 30,000 shekels for attorneys' fees for both the original suit and the appeal. "At this time we are not planning another appeal. To lose again would not sound good," says Ronen.