Founded in 1981, the Institute on Religion & Democracy has been a voice for transparency, for renewal, and for Christian orthodoxy.
By Rick Plasterer
Same-sex marriage and the Health and Human Services contraceptive/abortifacient mandate are emerging as the greatest threats to domestic religious liberty, according to panelists at a half-day conference on legal protection for liberty of conscience, held by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The September 13 discussion on the effect of same-sex marriage on religious liberty emphasized a grave threat, far graver than the public is generally aware. Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund, Lawri Windham, Senior Counsel, and Joshua Hardy, Senior Counsel, were featured panelists. As they explained, there are two sources of threats, laws that forbid public accommodations from discrimination, and private lawsuits. Under the first, such cases as use of facilities owned by religious organizations for marriages where such use is open to the public or dating services provided by organizations or persons opposed to homosexuality are subject to lawsuits. Religious organizations could be barred from public social service because they are judged to be not acting in the public good or contrary to public policy, since the emerging public policy is supportive of equality for homosexual relations. Social workers may not be able to receive accreditation without affirming the morality of same sex relationships, and while officials at schools graduating such workers may be sympathetic to liberty of conscience, they may fear loss of accreditation if they protect the conscience of religious students. With private lawsuits, educational institutions housing for married students may face lawsuits from same sex couples. St. Joseph’s Medical Center in New York was cited as facing a lawsuit because it does not provide marital benefits to same sex spouses. The panel noted that religious individuals providing goods and services that might legally require facilitating homosexual behavior are even more legally exposed than religious organizations. The case of Julia Ward, dismissed from a social service educational program because she refused to affirm the morality of same-sex relationships was lost at the trial level, but overturned on appeal. The case of Elaine Photography in New Mexico, where a photographer was sued for refusing to photograph a lesbian ceremony has been so far lost, although it continues to be on appeal.
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