How to Preserve Religious Freedom After Supreme Court’s Activist Decision on Marriage by Sarah Torre
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Friday redefining marriage across all 50 states will likely have many serious, even unintended, consequences for the rule of law, democratic self-governance, and—in particular—religious freedom.
Before the ink was dry on the court’s activist decision, a columnist for The New York Times was already calling for the end of non-profit tax status for churches, charities, and other religious institutions. Just days earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union urged Congress to “amend” (read: gut) the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act—a commonsense, federal law that protects Americans’ free exercise of religion from unnecessary government interference and one the ACLU lobbied Congress to pass in the first place.
These calls to strip people and institutions of faith—with long-standing legal protections—are outrageous, but not unexpected. Numerous friend-of-the court briefs detailed the potential ramifications of redefining marriage for religious liberty, yet Justice Anthony Kennedy afforded just one paragraph to these considerations, writing in the majority opinion:
[I]t 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. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.
As pointed out by Chief Justice John Roberts in dissent, Justice Kennedy fundamentally misunderstands the Constitution’s robust protection of religious freedom:
The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses...........
The First Amendment Defense Act, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and in the House by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against any individual, organization, school, or business because they acted in accordance with the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Specifically, the policy would prevent the government from taking adverse action against those groups in tax policy, employment, licensing, contracting, grants, and accreditation.
Similar policies can be pursued in the states. Governors can issue executive orders preventing state bureaucrats from discriminating against citizens who wish to live and act in accordance with the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. State legislatures can, likewise, pass legislation that protects the freedom of Americans to continue witnessing to the truth about marriage.
Even President Obama, in his remarks celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling, reminded the nation that “Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue” and urged citizens to “revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”
Everyone is free to live and to love as they choose, but no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship. All Americans should remain free to run businesses, serve the poor, and educate the next generation in accordance with the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Read more: dailysignal.com