The Double Assault on Religious Freedom

by Michael Worley

Present religious-liberty concerns associated with same-sex marriage come in two forms. 

The first is the underlying message that anyone who opposes same-sex marriage does so with a desire to demean gays and lesbians. As Justice Scalia summarized United States v. Windsor, “in the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us.” Obviously, for generations people have believed marriage was designed for men and women to raise families without ill will towards gays and lesbians.

The second attack on religious freedom is pressure on religious people to change their actions based on anti-discrimination laws. Be it a photographer in New Mexico, a religious adoption agency in Massachusetts or Illinois, a wedding planner in Iowa, or a baker in Colorado (where a ruling came out Friday), there is tremendous pressure for all individuals involved in for-profit companies to treat same-sex marriage exactly the same as opposite-sex marriage. The alternative? Pay fines and close down.

As the baker in the Colorado case found out Friday, the government is more than free to regulate his conduct:

 [This case] involves the state’s regulation of conduct; specifically, Respondents’ refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage due to a religious conviction that same-sex marriage is abhorrent to God. … [A]pplication of this law to Respondents does not violate their right to free speech or unduly abridge their right to free exercise of religion.

It is difficult to tell which assault on religious freedom is worse. One is an attempt to change how religious believers view their own views; the other is an attempt to change how religious believers act.  

The conflict comes into play more broadly when a religion cannot change what it feels God has said, and many faiths will not.

As Justice Scalia put it: “Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many.”  Nonetheless, the task remains for those who care about traditional values: show love to all and stay loyal to their religious or other conscientious commands.

— Michael T. Worley is a law student at Brigham Young University.

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