Back To Basics: It’s Time To Reclaim Real Religious Freedom

Americans United has been keeping tabs on a number of bills in the states that purport to defend “religious freedom” while actually undermining that principle.

These proposals are a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision upholding marriage equality. They take several forms.

Multiple states are considering socalled “First Amendment Defense Acts.” Some of these bills simply state that no member of the clergy can be compelled to preside at a same-sex wedding.

Since the First Amendment already protects clergy rights in this area, these bills are superfluous. Measures like this are like passing laws reiterating that people have the right to breathe air. They’re unnecessary.

Others are more problematic because they attempt to allow the owners of for-profit businesses a “religious freedom” right to refuse service to LGBT citizens. Such laws violate rights and fly in the face of our nation’s commitment to civil rights.

Some proposed laws would even grant government employees, such as clerks who issue marriage licenses, the right to refuse service to same-sex couples. This is especially problematic because these clerks are funded by taxpayers and must by law serve everyone.

Americans United is tracking all of these proposals and is working to oppose them. Real religious freedom gives you the right to decide when, where, how and if you will worship. It doesn’t give you the power to deny the rights of others or make moral decisions for them.

Government clerks who truly believe that they cannot, in good conscience, serve same-sex couples have an option: resign and get another job. Too many of them, it seems, want to remain on the taxpayer rolls with a secure sinecure while refusing to do core aspects of their job.

Religious freedom is a vital principle. It’s so vital, in fact, that recent attempts to convert it into a vehicle for rank forms of discrimination are highly offensive. They must be opposed.