USA: Whatever Happened to Religious Freedom?
By Roger Pilon
Oregon/Washington D. C. , 13.07.2015 (WSJ) – With nationwide same-sex marriage now in its pocket, the gay-rights movement is turning quickly to the next item on its agenda: outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is where many libertarians who strongly supported same-sex marriage step back for a more measured approach. It is one thing to prevent government officials from discriminating against same-sex couples—that is what equal protection is all about—quite another to force private individuals and organizations into associations they find offensive.
The law here is unsettled, especially as the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion is pitted against various statutory rights to be free from discrimination. The Supreme Court muddied those waters in its same-sex marriage decision last month. Writing for the majority in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy merely mentioned in passing that religious adherents would continue to be free to “advocate” and “teach” their beliefs. Conspicuously absent, as dissenting justices noted, was any mention of the “exercise” of those beliefs.
Meanwhile, conflicts are increasing as the LGBT community presses its agenda. As Americans prepared to celebrate the Fourth of July, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered bakery owners Aaron andMelissa Klein to pay a lesbian couple $135,000 for “emotional damages” because the Kleins, citing their religious beliefs, had declined to bake a cake for the couple’s wedding.
The week before, Cynthia and Robert Gifford, a Christian couple in upstate New York who own a small farm open to the public for seasonal activities, filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court. They were fined $13,000 last year by the New York State Division of Human Rights for declining to host a same-sex wedding. The Giffords were also ordered to implement “antidiscrimination training and procedures” for their staff—re-education, in effect.