Religious Liberty

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Discrimination is Not Religious Freedom

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Reverend Irene MonroeA movement is afoot in state legislatures across the country to disenfranchise LGBTQ Americans. There are a surprisingly number of bills being introduced in state legislative session, which outrightly sanction and enforce LGBTQ discrimination. These bills are called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA), but don’t be fooled. These lawmakers are looking to codify LGBTQ discrimination.

This week the Georgia Senate, with a vote of 37-15, approved controversial RFRA (House Bill 1023). The bill doesn’t want the state’s Christian religious conservatives, fundamentalists and evangelicals to “substantially burden” their personal religious practices and beliefs. What, you may ask, could possibly be such a burden to Christians in Georgia that a state law is necessitated? Burden, according the bill, is defined as:

“‘Burden’ means any government action or implementation or application of any law, including, but not limited to, state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations, and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person’s exercise of religion, including, but not limited to, withholding benefits, assessing criminal, civil, or administrative penalties, and exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities.”

But let’s be clear, the only religious folk lawmakers hope to protect from a “substantially burden” is Christians. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christian Georgians don’t merit protection. As a matter-of-fact, these demographic groups — along with atheists and LGBTQs — can easily be subject to egregious forms of discrimination, bigotry and hate crimes under the guise of religion.

Authored By Reverend Irene Monroe – See the Full Story at SDGLN

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USA Poll: Large Group of Marriage Equality Supporters Also Approve of Religious Exemptions

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

titleA new poll from Associated Press-GfK shows that the rise in marriage equality support comes with some caveats.

ABC News reports:

While finding that Americans narrowly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, a new Associated Press-GfK poll also shows most believe wedding-related businesses should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples for religious reasons. Roughly half the country also thinks local officials and judges with religious objections ought to be exempt from any requirement that they issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, according to the poll…

About a quarter of those who favor legal same-sex marriage also favor religious exemptions for those who issue marriage licenses, the poll finds, and a third say wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service.

I want someone to ask these people if they would still feel the same if the word “black” was substituted for the word “gay”. If so, although I’d find their position morally repugnant, at least it would be intellectually consistent. If not, the question would point out the lingering homophobia that still haunts our movement.

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The Most Dangerous Line in the Hobby Lobby Ruling

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Hobby LobbyThe most dangerous line in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby doesn’t come until page 46. It reads as follows:

The principal dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction. Our decision today provides no such shield. The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.

That doesn’t sound too bad; indeed, it is probably one of the few statements in Justice Alito’s opinion that many of us would endorse.

Its danger, particularly to the LGBT community, rests in what is not said.

As we have discussed at length, Hobby Lobby allowed a family-run, for-profit arts and crafts company to deny its female employees access to certain contraception simply because that contraception violates the religious beliefs of the company owners.

GinsburgJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent cautioned that the Court was opening a door to allow anyone to use the pretext of religion to opt out of antidiscrimination or public accommodations laws. Justice Alito’s response was to deny the charge, arguing that where the government has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination, as it does in preventing discrimination on the basis of race, the Hobby Lobby exemption would not succeed.

But what happens when the government does not have that “compelling interest”?

Authored By Ari Ezra Waldman – See the Full Story at Towleroad.com

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President Obama to Sign LGBT Employment Executive Order Monday Without Religious Privilege

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

President Barack ObamaPresident Obama will sign the long-awaited executive order on monday, preventing federal contractors form discriminating against LGBT workers.

The Washington Blade reports:

President Obama is set on Monday to take executive action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees working for federal contractors and the federal government, the Washington Blade has learned. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama plans to amend existing executive orders barring discrimination against workers to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama intends to amend Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, to add the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Obama plans to amend Executive Order 11478, which prohibits discrimination in the federal civilian workplace — and was already amended by President Clinton to include sexual orientation — to include gender identity.

Although there will be no religious privileges included in the order. an older executive order still applies to some groups:

No further exemption for religious entities will be included in the executive order, but the update also won’t repeal President George W. Bush’s amendment to EO 11246, which allows religious-affiliated federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion, officials said. “You can use religion to only hire people who share your religion, but you can’t discriminate against somebody who is of your faith who happens to be LGBT, unless they fall within the ministerial exemption,” officials said.

It’s great that the President is doing this, but it’s both a sad commentary on the inability of congress (because of conservative stalling) to take any action on the matter for how many years now? And it could be reversed with the stroke of a pen by the next conservative President.

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“Religious Exemption” is Really “Religious Privilege”

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Sue O'ConnellWe have been oh so careful. How many times have we assured religious leaders that marriage equality will not mean that Catholic priests will have to start performing marriages between two lesbians? How many times have we bit our lip when a religious school has fired a gay person because he didn’t set the correct example? How many times have we crafted laws to clearly allow religious organizations an out — a way to circumvent the law because of their strongly held anti-gay religious beliefs?

We were careful because the LGBT community understood the tensions between religion and being LGB or T. Many of us are — or were — religious people. Many of us have been rejected by our faith leaders. Many of us have been rejected by our families because of their religious faith.

We grew a tolerance to the anti-gay parts of our religion, or we found a more accepting faith. We accepted our Catholic grandmother’s anti-gay sentiment as “religious conviction” even though she seemed supportive of our brother’s divorce.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rewarded our thoughtfulness with a slap.

Authored By Sue O’Connell – See the Full Story at The Dallas Voice

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National LGBT Groups Drop ENDA Support

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

New Human Rights Campaign President Ready to Wade Into More Marriage Equality FightsIt started yesterday with an announcement from NGLTF.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Six of the nation’s leading LGBT rights advocacy groups on Tuesday announced they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), fearing that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill could compel private companies to cite objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week.

The withdrawal was first announced earlier Tuesday by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and by mid-afternoon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement that they would no longer support the current version of ENDA because it provides “religiously affiliated organizations … a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

The issue has been simmering for awhile, but the Hobby Lobby decision last week brought it to a boil.

Towleroad.com reports from the NGLTF press release:

“The morning after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA’s broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally – we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law.”

The lone hold-out? HRC.

Pink News reports:

Despite the shift, the Human Rights Campaign – which tackled anti-gay discrimination – has maintained support for the bill. Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz said yesterday: “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

Is HRC hanging on because it has spent years and years failing to get this thing passed, and now fears seeing the whole thing go down in flames?

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It’s Baaaack… the Kansas Right to Discriminate Bill Returns

Monday, July 7th, 2014

KansasThe zombie armies of the religious right are mounting another attack, planning to revive the failed Right to Discriminate bill in the state in January.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Same-sex marriage opponents argue that Kansas should shield their religious liberties before the state’s ban falls. The prospect is possible after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also has jurisdiction over Kansas, struck down Utah’s ban last month. The Rev. Terry Fox, a prominent Southern Baptist minister in Wichita and a leader in getting voters to approve Kansas’ gay marriage ban in 2005, said he and other pastors are determined to get legislators to take up the issue after reconvening in January. The Kansas Catholic Conference also views additional legal protections as vital. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Fox said. “The Body of Christ is a powerful movement when it comes together.”

Will it fare any better this time around? Expect to hear the phrase “Hobby Lobby” used incessantly during the debate.

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The Great Religious Secession

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Church…I am someone who believes that religious liberty is the country’s founding freedom, the idea that made America possible. I am also a homosexual atheist, so religious conservatives may not want my advice. I’ll give it to them anyway. Culturally conservative Christians are taking a pronounced turn toward social secession: asserting both the right and the intent to sequester themselves from secular culture and norms, including the norm of nondiscrimination. This is not a good idea. When religion isolates itself from secular society, both sides lose, but religion loses more.

Over the decades, religious traditionalists’ engagement with American secular life has waxed and waned. After the public-relations disaster of the Scopes evolution trial in the 1920s, many conservative Christians recoiled from politics, only to come out swinging in the 1970s, when the Moral Majority and other elements of what came to be called the religious right burst onto the scene. If you believe in cultural cycles, perhaps we’re due for another withdrawal. Certainly, the breakthrough of gay marriage has fed disillusionment and bewilderment. “I suspect the initial reaction among evangelicals is going to be retreat and hope to be left alone,” Maggie Gallagher, a prominent gay-marriage opponent, recently told The Huffington Post.

Still, the desire to be left alone takes on a pretty aggressive cast when it involves slamming the door of a commercial enterprise on people you don’t approve of. The idea that serving as a vendor for, say, a gay commitment ceremony is tantamount to “endorsing” homosexuality, as the new religious-liberty advocates now assert, is a far-reaching proposition, one with few apparent outer boundaries in a densely interwoven mercantile society. It suggests a hair-trigger defensiveness about religious identity that would have seemed odd just a few years ago. As far as I know, during the divorce revolution it never occurred to, say, Catholic bakers to tell remarrying customers, “Your so-called second marriage is a lie, so take your business elsewhere.” That would have seemed not so much principled as bizarre.

Authored By Jonathan Rauch – See the Full Story at The Atlantic

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USA: Marriage Equality Trumps Religious Objections, Poll Finds

Friday, June 27th, 2014

titleA new poll finds that a majority of Americans think marriage equality should trump “religious freedom”, at least when it comes to health care and businesses.

The Gazette Extra reports:

A solid majority of Americans now supports equal treatment for same-sex couples despite religious objections, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released this week by the First Amendment Center. Sixty-one percent of respondents agree that the government should require religiously affiliated groups that receive government funding to provide health care benefits to same-sex partners of employees–even when the religious group opposes same-sex marriage. And 54 percent of the public agree that a business providing wedding services to the public should be required to serve same-sex couples, even if the business owner objects to gay marriage on religious grounds.

When it’s about commerce, LGBT rights (just like African American rights and women’s rights) should trump someone’s religious objections.

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Colorado Baker Still Won’t Make Cakes for Gay Weddings

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Gay Wedding CakeEven after losing his case on appeal, a Colorado baker who turned away a gay couple says he won’t make cakes for same sex weddings.

Pink News reports:

On Friday, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld a previous finding that it was discriminatory for the Christian baker to refuse to serve a gay couple because of their sexual orientation. Commissioner Raju Jaram said: “I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people.” Phillips said in a statement that he was not going to change his policies, and that the court would have to shut his bakery down. He said: “I’m going to stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down.”

Ultimately, this comes down to two very different worldviews – one that says gays are like everyone else and should be treated accordingly, and one that says gays are sinners who choose to be homosexual. I don’t know how you ever reconcile those two, short of waiting for the latter to die out over time.

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