Laws Put Religious Freedom in Jeopardy

Laws Put Religious Freedom in Jeopardy

Diane Robertson

Washington State has become the seventh U.S. state to legalize same-sex “marriage.” This new law is considered an anti-discrimination law. Many of these laws, like Washington State’s, will include a religious clause. These clauses are there to exempt churches and clergymen from being sued for discrimination if the church or clergy member, for example, refuses to perform a marriage of same sex couples. Many people believe that these clauses protect any religious-based conscientious objections to same-sex “marriages.”

This simply is not the case.  In response to questions about the New York State’s religious protection clause, Alliance Defense Fund attorney Austin R. Nimocks stated:

It does not protect individuals. It does not protect private business owners. It does not protect, for example, a bed and breakfast owner who is using their own private personal property in the type of intimate setting that a bed and breakfast is. It does not protect licensed professionals. For example, it does not protect counselors. It also does not protect lawyers — you may have a family law attorney who does not want to do a same-sex divorce because of their deeply held religious beliefs. It does not protect fertility doctors who may have a strict belief and only want to help [heterosexual] married couples because they believe a kid deserves both a mom and a dad.

Individual citizens are offered no protection under religious clauses in nondiscrimination laws.  An individual’s religious beliefs are just not protected where same-sex “marriage” and civil unions are legal, and in other places with nondiscrimination laws.

In 2005 in Massachusetts,  when David Parker, a parent of a kindergartner, strongly insisted on being notified when teachers were discussing homosexuality with his son, the school had him arrested and he spent the night in jail. In 2008, the federal court of appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Parker to have children opted out of homosexual curriculum.

In 2007 in Georgia, a licensed counselor, Marcia Walden, referred a person seeking same-sex relationship counseling to a colleague. Rather than attempt to provide a service that would conflict with her religious beliefs, Walden acting in the best interest of the client referred her to another counselor. The client filed a complaint and Walden was dismissed from her job. Walden lost and the case has been appealed.

In 1999, in California, two doctors at the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group referred a lesbian patient to a doctor at an outside clinic for fertility treatments because of their religious beliefs. After a successful pregnancy preformed through the other doctor this patient sued the doctors at the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group for discrimination. In 2008, the doctors lost the case and it has been appealed.

In 2006 in New Mexico, Elane, a freelance photographer, refused to shoot a gay wedding between two women and was later sued by Vanessa Willock for discrimination against a person’s sexual orientation.  Elane lost the lawsuit and is now appealing.

These lawsuits are happening all over the United States. In most cases United States citizens, who believe their religious convictions should allow them to refuse services or protect their children, are losing.

At the international level, similar attacks on religious freedom, freedom of conscience, and freedom of expression continue.

In many instances, clergy members are not even protected.   You probably remember the case of Swedish Pastor Ake Green and Canadian Pastor Stephen Boissoin.  Although these men were eventually acquitted of their supposed crime of speaking out against homosexual behavior, thousands of dollars in legal fees and years in litigation have a dampening effect on free speech and upon religious freedoms.  These cases clearly send the message “if you speak out or defend religious positions, there will be a heavy price to pay.”

When Chai Feldblum, Pres. Obama’s appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was asked about conflicts between Religious Freedom and so-called “sexual liberty,” her response was indicative of how liberal courts around the world seem to view this issue:

“I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

As Marc Stern, general counsel for American Jewish Congress has stated:  “When you have a change that is as dramatic as has happened in the last 10 to 15 years with regards to attitudes toward homosexuality, it’s inevitable it’s going to reverberate in dozens of places in the law that you’re never going to be able to foresee.”

Action Items:

1.  Understand that “religious exemption clauses” that might be written into same-sex marriage laws or into other types of anti-discrimination laws relating to sexual orientation, offer little, if any, protection to individuals, businesses, or non-religious organizations.  Don’t be fooled.

2.  Thoroughly examine any type of proposed legislation surrounding issues of domestic partnership, civil unions, same-sex “marriage” laws, hate crime law, employment law, or any type of “anti-discrimination” policy.  Be advised that individual religious perspective is usually not protected.

3.  Stand firm in defense of traditional marriage.  Actively oppose legalization of same-sex “marriage” and other forms of alternative relationships.

4.  Stand firm in defense of religious freedom and the opportunity for conscientious objection.

5.  Get involved in the appointment and retention of members of the judiciary.  Know the stance of those individuals who are being appointed or elected to judicial positions.


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