Members of the Americans United staff were out in full force at the U.S. Supreme Court March 23. The justices heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a case concerning access to birth control. (You can read more about the argument in the legal challenge in “People & Events.”)
By Vickie Sandell Stangl
A small but growing number of Americans have been inching ever closer to the principle that even in a secular democratic society, their religious beliefs should exempt them from modern laws.
The most recent examples are laws regarding discrimination to promote a religious belief, ignoring federal laws curbing partisan electioneering from the pulpit and denying women the right to contraceptives through health care plans. These are serious issues multiplying across the nation.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in March vetoed H.B. 757, a so-called “religious freedom” bill that opponents said could have allowed any individual or “faith-based” business, non-profit entity or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage.
“All it does is it makes sure that the government is not going to punish people of faith,” State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) told Fox 10, a local TV channel.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a broadly worded bill into law in April that allows government employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers and non-profit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against same-sex couples, single mothers, divorcees and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.
According to National Public Radio, Bryant claimed on Twitter that he signed the bill, H.B. 1523, “to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions...from discriminatory action by state government.”
The U.S. Supreme Court in March heard oral arguments in a case that will determine whether religiously affiliated non-profits have the right to deny women employees access to birth control on the basis of the groups’ theological beliefs.
The March 23 argument lasted 90 minutes and was marked by spirited exchanges and sharp questioning from the justices. A clear division emerged from the court’s liberal and conservative wings, leading some analysts to speculate that the high court may split 4-4.
The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional rights of same-sex couples by refusing to hear a religious-freedom challenge to a state anti-discrimination ordinance, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.
Americans United had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. This action is part of Americans United’s Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBT persons and others.
It is deeply distressing that Mississippi lawmakers have approved a measure that could permit religion-based discrimination against many Mississippians, including LGBT persons, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In the ongoing dispute over access to birth control, one thing has often been missing: the voices of women who stand to lose the most if contraceptives become harder to get.
Americans United is working to change that.
Two women who applied for a marriage license in Gilmer County, W.Va., were verbally abused by a deputy clerk, who then proceed to preach to them.
Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich in February sought a marriage license at the Gilmer County Courthouse. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that Debbie Allen, a deputy clerk who processed their license, told the couple that she did not agree with their marriage and allegedly called their actions “an abomination” during a rant that lasted two to three minutes.
A number of bills designed to undermine marriage equality and stymie LGBT rights are on the move in the states: