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‘Religious Liberty’ Is The Next Frontier In Gay Rights Battle

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‘Religious Liberty’ Is The Next Frontier In Gay Rights Battle

religious freedom liberty rally sign

As of May, 57 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriage — but 72 percent said that marriage equality was inevitable, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. The inevitable arrived Friday, as widely expected, when the Supreme Court issued a ruling establishing that same-sex couples have the right to marry throughout the nation.

While support for gay marriage has been on the rise nationwide for the last decadegroups that still oppose it tend to be white, older, Republican, more religious, and, moreover, tend to live in states that hadn’t legalized it already. So although at the national level it appears that opponents of marriage equality are fading into irrelevance, in constituencies where conservatives hold court, the struggle against progress rages on — and that means candidates must be seen resisting and challenging the ruling. And “religious liberty” is proving itself to be a useful weapon in the fight.

Using what Rolling Stone describes as a “simple semantic trick of calling” gay marriage “a religious liberty issue,” conservatives can conveniently avoid the kind of explicit discriminatory language that divides people, while letting voters know where they stand on the issue. Consider Louisiana governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. The tweets he posted in the wake of Friday’s ruling mentioned “religious liberty” twice, and he said in a statement: “This decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.” (“Religious liberty” is also the name and focus of his first campaign ad.)

“Religious liberty” is used as a catch-all for opting out of legislative acts and judicial rulings that favor progressive policies that conservatives don’t like. It’s a term they can rally behind as way to protect what they characterize as a way of life and a set of values. Those fighting under the “religious liberty” banner want to extend religious protections outside the realm of religious institutions (like churches) and into normally secular contexts. By tying it to economic and business concerns, they can pick up constituents who care about dollars and cents, rather than making it about a culture war they’ve already lost.

Jindal, for one, likens any restrictions of “religious liberty” to regulation and other allegedly “anti-business” practices: “Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all.”

In former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s statement Friday, he alludes to cases where businesses were fined for not supporting same-sex couples.

That’s what’s to expect in the next round of the marriage-equality battle — same-sex rights vs. the rights of those with religious objections.

Even Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, said that “religious liberty” challenges are acceptable: “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,” Kennedy wrote.

Activists are pointing out that even with today’s ruling, the fight isn’t over: There are 28 states that don’t provide protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing, or in public accommodations for LGBT people, despite many beliefs to the contrary.

Many non-conservatives see this “religious liberty” fight as a last-ditch attempt against something that has largely been decided already, “a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender,” as Ross Douthat phrased it.

Not all Republican presidential candidates who have come out against today’s ruling mentioned “religious liberty. “States’ rights” — the old standby that New Jersey governor Christ Christie and Florida governor Jeb Bush cited in their objections to the ruling — has a history of being aligned with conservative and sometimes questionable stances. It has often been invoked when referring to the legacy of the Civil War.

The conventional wisdom is that the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric is good for firing up the base and could work to Republicans’ advantage in the primaries. But now that the issue of marriage equality is seemingly settled, will most Americans care enough about “religious liberty” to vote Republicans into office?

Photo: “Religious liberty” is not just about practicing religion freely. For many, it’s about having the right to refuse to provide goods or services that are against their religious beliefs. That’s the line of attack Republicans are expected to use on LGBT issues now that the marriage question has been settled by the Supreme Court. American Life League via Flickr



  1. Paul Bass June 27, 2015

    1980 – let them all die from aids
    1990 – don’t ask don’t tell
    2000 – gay rights to marry?
    2015 – we are fighting over the gay wedding cake.

    We’ve come a long ways, yeah baby!

  2. tomtype June 27, 2015

    If you are old enough, you may remember similar arguments were offered when the civil rights acomodations bill was passed, saying you could not discriminate by race in providing resaurant, hotel, and similar services. And some people said it was against their religion to have Black people staying in their hotel or eating at their restaurant.
    Since they were unprofessional, they either changed or got out of the business. Why is it against your religion to have a black person eat your food? How is against your religion to have gay people eat your food? If you say it is because they are sinners, well every customer in you restaurant is a sinner. If you don’t serve sinners, you have no customers. The bible will tell you that much. And the bible will also tell you there are no sins that are unforgivable, and that sin is sin. So, what religious basis do you have? In fact, Paul in his famous argument about eating meat offered to idols, notes that only if the idols were real gods, would he find it objectionable. So for poorer Christians, why not eat the meat that was sold at a reduced price. It meant nothing. Since all your customers are sinners, it means nothing to try and distinguish between sins or levels of sin. This is in fact your chance to be a witness. So it is both against your Christian religion and against your capitalist business ethics to turn away good business. In fact it is those conservative business men who are arguing strongest against not serving your customers.

    1. Independent1 June 28, 2015

      Your post is for the most part accurate, aside from this one comment: “And the bible will also tell you there are no sins that are unforgivable, and that sin is sin.”

      Unfortunately, many misguidedly believe that God is all forgiving; and He is, provided that our sins our due to human failings. When Jesus gave his life for us, God wiped out and forgot all the sins that had been committed up until that time; and if Jesus will intercede for us, he will forgive the sins that we commit today – provided, they are not committed intentionally, or knowingly.

      See these verses from Hebrews 10 where God made this clear through the author of the general letter to the Hebrews:

      26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

      And some similar words from the 6th chapter:

      4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

      1. tomtype June 29, 2015

        However, we have some sins that we insist do continue to be forgiven because the original naming it as a sin was against God’s will for how he wants us to live.
        If you are protestant, you continue to sin by not following the church that was established by the Church fathers. On the other hand, I believe many Protestants can and occasionally do argue that the medieval universal (catholic) church is no longer, as even the Roman Catholic Church was completely changed into just another denomination at the Council of Trent. All the later Church Councils were not Universal councils, not since Nicea where the Eastern churches walked out, or the bishops helped the acolytes up onto the council table to battle each other with crosses turned turned around to be more like swords.
        Or the historic peace churches teaching that any participation in war violates the Christian principles, even wars against “infidels,” but especially wars against other Christians.
        Or more recently, although Jesus himself says nothing about gays he does say a lot about divorce, condemning it. But look at any church on Sunday morning. No matter what the church teachings on divorce, nearly half of the congregants on any Sunday morning will have been divorced. And many will remarry. Which is then a double sin of both divorce but also adultery. What I am saying is that while you may be theologically logical, you are not at all being realistic.
        We also know, that as I have pointed out, the sin of Sodom three places in the Bible is defined as being unfriendly, not being properly hospitable, as is expected in a desert land. It is not what so many of us were taught and assumed. The prohibitions on homosexuality in Leviticus may well have more to do with mysogeny than homosexuality. It is that no Hee-man would ever lower himself to be put into a woman’s position, a woman’s place, subservient to any man. It is not the act, and what happens, but that no man would ever allow himself to be reduced to being a woman. Which is more about hating women, than not loving men. And that corresponds to such behavior in prisons. You need, not just want, someone to humiliate, to reduce to something lower than low, Lower than any real man. Of course we also no longer generally believe that about the status of women either.
        If we go back to 1889, hardly that long ago. Until that point politics was always defined as “Men Only.” As far back in history as you want to go. But starting with Wyoming, we began giving women the right to vote. Now we assume that they have that right, that they are full citizens, and that it is not un-Christian for women to vote and act as citizens. And it was in fact, SOME Christians who lead that struggle around the world. And now women are allowed to become ministers and even politicians. And most people would say we are probably better for it. In a hundred years, those who accepted, even supported gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people may well agree, they were not sins, and we are better off for accepting them. Maybe, after 100 years, we may find that like women and like Blacks who are all stronger church attenders than men, we may find that LGBT may well become the mainstays of churches.

        1. Independent1 June 29, 2015

          No where did Jesus or any of the apostles write anything about following a ‘religion’; a contrived church which follows man-made rules and practices. In fact, Jesus said that the stones used to construct all the temples of the time would come tumbling down. God is asking us to follow the Gospel which is the Bible and not some mainstream ‘religion’ which man has created by picking and choosing what it is in the Bible that those who created the religion feel comfortable trying to live by.

          And the biggest error that those who follow most ‘religions’ make, is trying to mix the Old and New Testaments, when God it clear through the writer of Hebrews in Chapter 8, is that the New Testament made the Old one OBSOLETE, and therefore should have vanished from Men’s (read men’s and women’s) minds long long ago.

          When God forgave mankind’s sins he also put everything in the Old Testament out of His mind also. People today are to be living by everything Jesus taught; mostly what’s recorded in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5 through 7; and then in the many parables Jesus used in trying to teach the disciples more of God’s word.

          But as Jesus said in at least a couple places, God’s commandments, in addition to loving God with our hearts, minds and soul; are all summed up by ‘Loving our Neighbors as ourselves’ and in fact, putting the needs of others above our own. Because if we do that, we will conform to every guideline that Jesus spent his time on earth trying to teach us.

        2. Independent1 June 29, 2015

          And with respect to LBGT relationships. No one knows today how God feels about them. As you pointed out, Jesus never mentioned those relationships in all his preaching; and it’s not really clear what Paul was referring to in some of his letters when he appeared to condemn them.

          And despite that, those words were written 2,000 years ago; and over the 2,000 years before Jesus came to earth, God changed his mind on heterosexual relations. He said nothing about condemning adultery, when Abraham fathered a child by Sarah’s handmaiden; or when other of the patriarchs had 2nd wives and concubines. Yet Jesus made it clear that God now expects men and women to have one sexual partner during their lifetimes.

          So if God changed his mind in 2,000 years as to how men and women should live together, no one can say for certainty today how God feels about LGBT relationships. Especially since scientists’ studies have shown that being truly LGBT is not a choice, but is a result of how each of us was created in the womb. Only God knows the hearts of any of us, and He will judge all of us by THE INTENT with which we live our lives – whether it is corrupt or honorable.

          1. dpaano September 9, 2015

            Well said! I agree with you wholeheartedly!!! The bible has been rewritten so many times since it’s inception by so many different people and groups of people…..how can we know what the “original” intent of the bible was except as a guideline for us on how to live our lives.

    2. dpaano September 9, 2015

      It’s the “glass house” explanation…..there are NONE of us who are without sin! So, if a business doesn’t want to serve people who they feel are sinners….they should look into the mirror!

  3. Siegfried Heydrich June 28, 2015

    They can’t violate the law, period. Any motel owner who refuses to rent a room, for instance, to a gay couple is no different than a motel owner who refuses to rent a room to a black or mixed race couple because they offend his ‘religious’ sensibilities. You do that, they call a lawyer, the lawyers sue you, you spend a fortune defending the indefensible, and then you lose. Followed very shortly by you declaring bankruptcy and losing your motel. Same with a restaurant owner. Or a caterer.

    If you’re in business, you don’t get to pick & choose who your customers are. Feel free not to think a gay marriage is real. After all, you already believe in something that’s not real as a basis for your objections. That’s your right; you are free to be as bigoted and hateful in your own personal opinions and speech as you like. BUT . . . cross that line into Caesar’s realm, then be prepared to deal with the consequences.

    1. Independent1 June 28, 2015

      Exactly! People who feel they have a right to discriminate in order to live up to what are often their misguided religious beliefs, not fully supported by scripture, but rather by their pick-and-choose reading of scripture, have no business trying to operate a company that caters in any way to the public.

    2. latebloomingrandma June 28, 2015

      There’s nothing sacramental about a bouquet of flowers or a cake for a wedding. It’s purely a business transaction.

  4. latebloomingrandma June 28, 2015

    This religious liberty excuse seems rather petty and pathetic, since Christians in the middle east are actually getting killed for their beliefs. People here just need to get a grip already and grow up.

    1. dpaano September 9, 2015

      Sometimes I think we have too MANY freedoms in this country!

  5. ps0rjl June 28, 2015

    I have a solution for people who do not under “religious freedom” want to do business with gay couples. They should have to put a sign in their business stating such. That way straight people like me who support same sex marriages can also know their feelings and can choose not to spend my money there. I think they might not like that though.

  6. Robert Cruder June 29, 2015

    Those who freely apply to the state for a license to do what others are not allowed to do, whether a physician, pharmacist, electrician, plumber or shopkeeper agree to become agents of that state and to provide goods and services to everyone regardless of their religion.

    That means they may not refuse those who won’t pretend to be of and obey the restrictions of the same religion as the shopkeeper. A Jewish or Islamist licensed as a butcher may not turn away customers who ask for pork. Am observant Jew may not refuse to put cheese on a burger. An Islamic or Baptist paid to clerk at a liquor store may not refuse to sell alcohol.

    Like paying one’s taxes, performing the tasks that one has freely contracted to do is rendering to Caesar and not subject to religious conscience unless one wants to relinquish the license or position completely.

    Funny-mentalists demand to control our lives in ways they would not allow members of any other religion to control them. The proper label for that is HYPOCRITE.

    1. dpaano September 9, 2015

      You are absolutely correct….until they show me a paycheck signed by Jesus, they have to follow the law of the land. If they can’t for religious reasons, then they shouldn’t take the job! I know several butchers who are Jewish, and they have no problem selling pork products to non-Jewish buyers…they just don’t eat it themselves, but they don’t dictate their beliefs to non–Jewish customers…..as it should be. If you are a business person, in business to make money, you serve ALL your customers the same!

  7. Dominick Vila June 29, 2015

    Religion has always been an integral part of American politics, and I suspect it will continue to be for many years to come. The struggles we are seeing between people of faith and the non-believers are influenced, mostly, by the conviction that religious organizations are losing their grip on the American people. Religious organizations, like most large businesses, are fighting for their right to exist and to remain viable. Interestingly, the path they have chosen to survive is based on confrontation, discrimination, denial of basic rights, and positions so inhumane that they deny them the right to be recognized as representatives or advocates of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  8. 13observer June 30, 2015

    A gun shop owner would never refuse to sell a gun to a homosexual that was a legal citizen with no criminal record.

  9. 13observer June 30, 2015

    Because SCOTUS gave its blessing to gay marriage and gun ownership; by law the public must all be “tolerant” of both!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please NO “double standards” democrats.


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