At 87, Georgia’s own former president is still kickin’ it with God in his Sunday school class. Gays and marriage are on the curriculum as he pitches his new book about the Bible.

“NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter” came out late last month. In a new Huffington Post interview that caught our attention, the international humanitarian and founder of Atlanta’s Carter Center (photo) talks up the book via interpretations of some controversial Bible passages, including slavery, equality for women, his take on gay parishioners and marriage for same-sex couples.

Carter says that he backs civil marriage equality but opposes government oversight of churches that discriminate against gay couples. He also reveals that his church welcomes gay members.

Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs.

So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.

Photo by Rick Diamond for the Carter Center