The Supreme Court Is at Stake: Why the Presidential Election Matters


Judith McDaniel | Truthout | May 15, 2016

The US Supreme Court in Washington, April 4, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)A US Supreme Court for the few or the many? Not voting gives your voice to others to decide. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)

 

It is no secret that the makeup of the US Supreme Court will be a major issue as the fall election campaigns unfold. And yet, many voters will choose not to vote. “It’s too much effort. I forgot to register when I moved. My vote won’t matter.”

I’ve heard every excuse, but whatever the reason, not voting gives power to others to make decisions that do in fact affect most of our lives.

Examples? Here are some cases and issues to watch.

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Religious leaders object to religious objections law


Associated Press | Mississippi Business Journal | April 28, 2016

Dozens of Methodist leaders are objecting to Mississippi’s new religious objections law, saying it violates their religious principles.

More than 30 ministers from around the state and nation published an open letter Monday saying the so-called “religious freedom” law goes against Christian teachings to love and respect all people. The group joins major businesses, human rights groups and legal experts in opposing the incoming law, which they say discriminates against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The law lets churches and some private businesses deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people because of religious beliefs. It’s similar to one vetoed by Georgia’s governor in late March. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the measure into law earlier this month.

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Why is employment discrimination a “religious freedom” issue?


 | America Blog | January 22, 2016

Emma Green has another account in The Atlantic about the titanic clash between LGBT equality and religious freedom. This time, she’s taken on the 1985 Minnesota Supreme Court case McClure vs. Sports & Health Club, one of the only major court cases in which the owners of a for-profit business claimed that employing gay and lesbian workers violated their religious beliefs.

The Court rejected this claim. Emma Green has concerns.

Her biggest concern seems to be that court fights concerning an employer’s religious beliefs are messy (“by the time such fights go to court, no one involved is likely to win”). As people affiliated with Sports & Health told her, they felt as though they were caricatured in the media for being rabid anti-gay bigots when in fact they were…benign anti-gay bigots?

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‘Sorry, guys’: Kentucky county clerk’s office denies gay couple a marriage license for a third time


James Yates and William Smith Jr. seek a marriage license from the Rowan County clerk's office (Courier Journal)

 

 

 | Raw Story | August 27, 2015

A  gay couple in Kentucky was denied a marriage license for a third time by a defiant county clerk.

James Yates and William Smith Jr. went Thursday morning to the Rowan County Courthouse to seek a license to be married but found that County Clerk Kim Davis still was refusing to issue them one as she fights federal court orders, reported the Courier-Journal.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday slapped down the latest challenge filed by Davis, with help and encouragement from the conservative Liberty Counsel, ruling that county clerks are obligated to follow the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and not their own personal beliefs.

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By a margin of 4 to 1, Americans favor religious freedom and liberty over gay rights in the current Culture War


By a margin of 4 to 1, Americans favor religious freedom and liberty over gay rights in the current culture war.

The poll, conducted by Caddell Associates, asked questions regarding legal cases where religious liberties have been under assault.

Via the Washington Examiner:

“Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same sex marriage. If a same sex couple wanted to hire the photographer for their wedding, should the photographer have the right to say no?”

A huge 82 percent said yes.

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Pat Caddell said 71 percent of Americans want the nation to produce “a commonsense solution that both protects religious freedom and gay and lesbian couples from discrimination.”

But when push comes to shove,  they will pick religious freedom and liberty over gay rights by a huge margin.

“When asked which was more important, by a four to one ratio, voters said protecting religious liberty (31 percent) over protecting gay and lesbian rights (8 percent),” said Caddell, who added that most of the rest said both are important.

The potential for a war is great, since a top Obama official suggested during the recent same sex marriage case that the administration could force groups opposed to gay weddings on religious ground to buckle under. There have been several standoffs and legal cases pitting businesses against gay rights groups.

On that issue, Caddell found very little support for the Obama administration’s meddling in the affairs of religious-affiliated groups and businesses.

He wrote:

“More than two thirds (68 percent) disagreed that the federal and state government should be able to require by law a private citizen to provide a service or their property for an event that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Only 18 percent agreed. Indeed, 51 percent strongly disagreed with this.

“When asked whether it should be up to the federal government to determine what constitutes legitimate religious beliefs only 11 percent agreed and a massive 79 percent disagreed. Indeed, even two thirds of those on the ‘left’ of the segmentation disagreed.”

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American poll puts ’religious liberty’ over LGBTI rights


American poll puts ’religious liberty’ over LGBTI rights Americans prioritize religious freedom of the rights of LGBTI people

 

Jack Flanagan | Gay Star News | August 8, 2015

The latest poll gauging support for gay rights in America tells us religious beliefs are still valued over LGBTI people.

The poll asked Americans a familiar scenario: should a Christian wedding photographer be forced to work at gay wedding if asked or should they have the right to say no?

It found 82% of those polled said ‘yes’ and they should have the choice.

Another 10% said ‘no’ and the remaining number weren’t sure.

The full question read: ‘Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same sex marriage. If a same sex couple wanted to hire the photographer for their wedding, should the photographer have the right to say no?’, as reported in the Washington Examiner.

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Multi-faith Mobilization Stalls Anti-LGBT Legislation


Religious freedom should mean equal rights for all

Religious freedom should mean equal rights for all

 

Bend the Arc | July Newsletter 2015

Less than a month after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States, conservative forces in Washington brazenly attempted to forestall this progress. Republicans House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that seeks to mitigate the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and allows for far broader discrimination against the LGBT community, along with single mothers and unmarried couples, all under the purport of “religious freedom.”

What makes the First Amendment Defense Act so galling? Described by one expert as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) “on steroids,” the First Amendment Defense Act would allow individuals, government employees, government-funded contractors and grantees, and for-profit corporations to discriminate on a broad and truly incomprehensible level. Under the act, a single mother could be denied a bed in a homeless shelter because she is unmarried, even if that homeless shelter is taxpayer-funded. A husband could be denied visitation rights to his dying spouse, on the basis that his spouse is a man. A couple could be denied an apartment in a commercial building because they are unmarried.

Upon hearing that the bill might be brought to a vote in Congress, Bend the Arc mobilized with our interfaith partner organizations to prevent the bill from moving forward. In partnership with Auburn Seminary, over 3000 clergy and faith leaders signed a letter in opposition of the First Amendment Defense Act, morally decrying that the bill cynically twists the meaning of religious freedom. As the faith leaders noted in their letter: “the religious liberty on which our nation was founded guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs — but it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others or to infringe on the religious beliefs of others.“

In the face of such strong opposition, the First Amendment Defense Act did not move forward. At least not yet. According to Bend the Arc’s allies on Capitol Hill, the bill stalled due to the strong showing of Bend the Arc and our colleagues.

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Gay rights may come at the cost of religious freedom…if you redefine religious freedom


| America Blog | July 27, 2015

Emma Green has a feature in The Atlantic titled “Gay Rights May Come at the Cost of Religious Freedom,” outlining all of the ways that marriage equality and non-discrimination laws bump elbows with Americans’ religious sensibilities. And from the workplace to the bakery to the private college, it doesn’t look good for Team Jesus.

I use the term Team Jesus because nowhere in the feature are the concerns of any religious group other than conservative Christians raised. In fact, the one non-Christian example Green highlights outlines how Jewish rabbis aren’t clamoring for their own versions of “pastor protection” laws that allow them to refuse to perform same-sex marriages (which they are still allowed to do regardless). The fact that concerns over religious liberty are entirely limited to the Christian religion makes it abundantly clear that the argument has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with Christian supremacy.

Each of the concerns Green raises about the freedoms that will be lost at the expense of LGBT gains aren’t freedoms at all. They’re entitlements to discriminate.

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When the Exception Is the Rule: Christianity in the Religious Freedom Debates


Protesters gather in Washington, D.C., for the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally. Photo via Flickr and courtesy of the American Life League

Protesters gather in Washington, D.C., for the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally. Photo via Flickr and courtesy of the American Life League

 

Frederick Clarkson | Political Research | July 6, 2015

When historians recount the history of separation of church and state in our time, one of the signature events may be a federal court case that didn’t even make it to the Supreme Court. It didn’t need to.

PE cover Summer 2015

This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The Public Eye magazine.

The 2014 case of General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper was a landmark event because, although the case was ostensibly about opposition to marriage equality, the decision upheld foundational notions of religious equality and equal protection under the law that bind this diverse and often fractious nation. It at once affirmed the equal standing under the law of all religious and non-religious points of view and showed that the Christian Right does not represent all of Christianity.

At issue was a 2012 amendment to the North Carolina state constitution that provided that same-sex marriages were invalid. Together with the state’s General Statutes, this amendment effectively criminalized the performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The upshot of the subsequent legal fight was that the million-member United Church of Christ (UCC), an historic Protestant denomination with roots dating back to the Plymouth Colony and more than 5,000 local churches, won a clear victory for both marriage equality and religious liberty.

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Take Action! HB 56: Discrimination Is Not An Alabama Value


Equality Alabama Email Header

Alabama needs you now, more than ever. The Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act, House Bill 56, will likely come up for a vote next Wednesday, May 13, in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. There was a public hearing on the bill Wednesday in that same committee.

HB56 instills discrimination into the Alabama Constitution by allowing public officials to simply not do their job under the guise of religious freedom. This harmful and discriminatory bill will allow them to decide who gets married and who does not based solely on personally held religious beliefs. As it is written, judges will be able to turn away interfaith couples, interracial couples, same-sex couples and unions where one partner is a divorcee. Further, it will allow religiously affiliated hospitals or other institutions to refuse to recognize marriages it disagrees with. This would empower a religious hospital to refuse to allow a legally married spouse to make medical decisions for their incapacitated partner. As Alabama faces a tremendous budget shortfall, now is not the time to pass reactionary, anti-LGBT legislation that is blatantly unconstitutional. Enshrining discrimination into law will bring lawsuits to the state, and expose Alabama to the national embarrassment that Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana received when they tried to adopt similar legislation. Alabama’s citizens deserve better. We must move forward. With your help, we can.

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee phone and tell them that discrimination is not an Alabama value, and to vote no on advancing HB56 to the full Senate. PROTECT EQUALITY FOR ALL BY CONTACTING MEMBERS OF THE ALABAMA SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TODAY!

Best,
Benjamin L. Newbern Chair, Board of Directors Equality Alabama