Bill could provide safeguards for churches, schools, bakers and photographers
People who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious liberties jeopardized and even forfeited, say two leading bishops on the eve of a potentially historic Supreme Court ruling on same-sex "marriage."
Archbishops Salvatore J. Cordileone and William E. Lori, chairmen of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively, wrote to members of Congress in support of a federal religious freedom statute as the nation braced for a Supreme Court ruling that may lead to legalized same-sex "marriage" in all 50 states.
The bishops voiced their support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), introduced June 17 in the U.S. Senate (S. 1598) by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2802) by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID).
FADA would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. For such individuals and organizations, the Act provides broad protections, including in the areas of federal contracts, grants, employment, and tax-exempt status.
"Recently, two ministers–a husband and a wife–operating a wedding chapel were threatened with criminal prosecution if they did not officiate at same-sex ‘weddings,’” the bishops wrote. "There have also been efforts to remove the tax-exempt status of some organizations–including religious organizations–unless they violate their faith beliefs and moral convictions regarding human sexuality. A Christian college in Massachusetts was given a year by its accreditor to report on how its non-discrimination policies met the accreditor’s standards for accreditation. Additionally, family business owners are being told that they cannot operate a business without violating their faith beliefs and moral convictions about marriage. It is becoming apparent that some who promote marriage redefinition do not support the coexistence and tolerance of different ideas in a pluralistic society but instead have a ‘comply or else’ agenda."
A backgrounder at the USCCB website provided more examples:
In California, a bill was introduced in the California legislature to strip the Boy Scouts of their state tax exemption based on the Scouts’ decision not to have adults who publicly identify as homosexual serve as Scout leaders. The bill would also have revoked the tax-exempt status of other youth organizations that hold to an authentic sexual morality, including organizations affiliated with Catholic schools. In New Mexico, the State Supreme Court ruled that a husband and wife who own and operate a photography studio must act against their religious beliefs and take photographs of a same-sex commitment ceremony, if they want to do business in the state. One of the judges wrote that violating one’s religious beliefs was “the price of citizenship.”
"As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination," the bishops wrote in their letter. "In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are very much needed."
The legislation refers to a recent exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court that has many religious liberty advocates concerned. During the April 28 oral arguments in the Obergefell case that is expected to be decided this week or next, Justice Samuel A. Alito asked Donald Verrilli Jr., solicitor general of the United States, whether a religious school could lose its tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage. In response, Verrilli said it is "certainly going to be an issue.”