Friday, July 11, 2008

Religious Liberty in the Crosshairs

Tony Perkins: FRC held a standing-room-only panel discussion this morning about the California same-sex marriage ruling and its effects on religious liberty. Many religious organizations in California and elsewhere are worried about the possible erosion of their First Amendment rights and religious liberty protections. The panel addressed key issues being asked by religious organizations: Will churches be able to refuse to marry homosexual couples? Will they be able to deny access to their facilities? Will other Christian organizations be able to retain their religious identity and beliefs in light of the court's decision?

I was joined by scholars and lawyers from both sides of the argument: Seamus Hasson, founder, chairman of the board, and president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Professor Teresa Stanton Collett, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Nathan J. Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Professor Chai R. Feldblum, Georgetown University Law Center; and Benjamin Bull from the Alliance Defense Fund. The reality is that the religious liberty of Americans is under fire, as evidenced by the loss of tax exempt status for a New Jersey Methodist organization that refused to allow lesbians to have a commitment ceremony at their site, and a lawsuit against a Christian photographer in Arizona who refused to take pictures of a lesbian commitment ceremony.

The panel also addressed the incidents in Sweden and Canada under their hate speech laws, including the prosecution of Swedish pastor Ake Green for speaking of homosexuality as a sin, and Pastor Stephen Boisson in Canada for the same offense. A part of the California ruling allows homosexual couples from out-of-state to travel there and get married. The ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense have already filed court papers in California to prevent the marriage amendment from being placed on the November ballot. California is the second state to allow and recognize same-sex marriage. The first state to allow same-sex marriage is Massachusetts which is bound by a 1913 law that prevents out-of-state gay and lesbian couples from getting married there. Massachusetts lawmakers are expected to vote next week to repeal the 1913 law. If they do so, it would put Massachusetts on par with California. See also: Boston Globe: Gay-marriage advocates hope to repeal old law Panel Discussion on California Same-sex Marriage: The Impact on Religious Liberty