Allow me to make a very direct statement. I believe it is time for the Church in this country to stand up for religious freedom.
Especially over the course of the last few years, we have seen repeated efforts — in the courts, in state legislatures, in Congress and on Pennsylvania Avenue — to erode what has been called the first freedom: religious liberty. (more…)
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment,” says Zack Pruitt in today’s Acton Commentary, “will generate huge conflicts—in some cases unforeseen—with the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” Fortunately, some legislators are already attempting to do something to prevent such conflicts.
Even before the recent Supreme Court ruling, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by “safeguarding those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.” The First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that it is unconstitutional for a state to declare that marriage is only between one man and one woman. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires states to redefine marriage, but the Court decided that the Due Process Clause prohibits defining marriage as it has been defined for millennia just as it found a right to an abortion in the same Due Process Clause over 40 years ago.
The role of the Court is to rule on the merits of a case based on prior case law and the Constitution. The Court is not to legislate or find ways to make something legal that they personally believe is better for society. When the Court removes an issue from the realm of democracy and imposes its will based on what it perceives as the best public policy, there is a natural resentment that occurs from the people and states opposed to the ruling, particularly when such a ruling has no real basis in constitutional law.
“Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” writes Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
If the Army can make an exception to its regulations for a vampire Mickey Mouse tattoo, why can it not do the same for a turban?
That was part of a federal court’s thinking in a ruling ordering the Army to allow a Sikh college student to join his college’s NROTC unit without having to shave his beard, cut his hair, or remove his turban.
Iknoor Singh, a junior at Hofstra University and an observant Sikh, has “long dreamed of serving his country.” He hopes to serve in Military Intelligence, and he speaks Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi, as well as English. He attempted to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and was told he’d have to shave his beard and cut his hair. But like other Sikhs, Singh believes that for a man to cut his hair, shave his beard, or abandon his turban would be “dishonoring and offending God.”
Singh requested a religious accommodation that would permit him to enroll with his articles of faith intact, but was denied by the Army. The Army said that he’d need to cut his beard and hair and only then would the organization consider his request for an accommodation. In other words, the Army’s position was that Singh would need to violate his sincerely held religious beliefs before he could even be considered for an accommodation of his sincerely held religious beliefs.
Every year about 400,000 children spend time in our nation’s foster care system, with roughly 100,000 eligible for adoption. Yet despite this urgent need for parents, note Sarah Torre and Ryan T. Anderson, “various states have adopted policies that would require faith-based providers to place children with same-sex couples, in violation of some agencies’ deeply held beliefs that children deserve a mom and a dad—effectively forcing these agencies out of adoption and foster care service.”
In a refreshing change from this trend against religious providers, the Michigan Legislature has approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies with state contracts the right to refuse to participate in referrals that violate their beliefs:
Large cities in the northeast like Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and so on, are often caricatured as wastelands of non-religious, unchurched, overtly secular theaters. Caricatures of this type seem odd given the fact that many of America’s oldest religious institutions are actively operating in those regions. One of my friends is quick to point out that every week people sit on church pews in northeastern churches that older than many states out west. For example, by looking at the Christian presence in the New York City area alone, research shows that the northeast might not be as religiously barren as many believe.
I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.
In the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that employers must offer a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practices. Here is what you should know about that case.
What was the issue that sparked the lawsuit?
Samantha Elauf, a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma, applied for a job at Abercrombie, a preppy clothing retailer, in 2008. After being interviewed by Heather Cooke, the store’s assistant manager, Elauf was given a rating that qualified her to be hired. However, the store has a policy forbidding employees to wear “caps.” Cooke informed her district manager that she believed Elauf wore her headscarf because of her faith. Her manager said that Elauf ’s headscarf would violate the store’s dress code, as would all other headwear, religious or otherwise, and directed Cooke not to hire Elauf.
The EEOC sued Abercrombie on Elauf ’s behalf, claiming that its refusal to hire Elauf violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship. Abercrombie claimed that dress policy wasn’t discriminatory because it applied to all head coverings. In addition, they claim, Elauf had not even requested a religious accommodation.
The question presented to the Supreme Court was whether this Title VII prohibition applies only where an applicant has informed the employer of his need for an accommodation.
What was the ruling of the Court?