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Judge Upholds Law Protecting Religious Liberty

Mississippi State House Mississippi State House

In a big win for supporters of traditional marriage in the state of Mississippi, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court ruled unanimously to allow a law protecting the religious liberty of people who oppose same-sex marriage to go into effect.

Writing for CNS, Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is reporting on a ruling handed down on June 22 that will protect the religious liberty and rights of conscience of people such as bakers and photographers and others who do not wish to participate in same-sex marriages because of their religious beliefs.

The law was put on hold when a lower court declared it to be unconstitutional, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

But as the 5th Circuit pointed out, the challengers to the law lack standing because they “have not clearly shown injury-in-fact.” In other words, they did not show how the Mississippi law protecting liberty for people who hold to the pre-Obergefell v. Hodges definition of marriage harmed them.

The law, which can now go into effect, says that churches and other religious organizations cannot be forced to celebrate or solemnize weddings that violate their beliefs; religious convents, universities and social service organizations can continue to maintain personnel and housing policies that reflect their beliefs; religious adoption agencies can continue to operate by their convictions, as well as bakers, photographers, florists and other wedding vendors; state employees can’t be fired for professing belief in marriage outside of their office and county clerks can opt out of issuing marriage licenses as long as it will not delay or impede the acquisition of the license; counselors and surgeons cannot be required to participate in gender identity transitioning or sex-reassignment surgery against their faith.

Even though the 5th Circuit’s ruling was based on lack of standing, Anderson says there are plenty of reason to rule in favor of the constitutionality of laws such as Mississippi’s.

As he explains in his new book, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, there is nothing scandalous about protecting particular viewpoints that are at oddes with those on which the government acts.

“When the government takes Americans to war, exceptions cover pacifists. When the government guarantees abortion, exceptions cover pro-lifers. These exemptions don’t amount to establishments of any religion, and neither do laws protecting dissenters after Obergefell,” Anderson writes.

“This is a reasonable bill. It protects the consciences of people who hold to the historic definition of marriage in the aftermath of the Supreme Court redefining marriage, and it does so while avoiding the awful outcomes that critics fear. The bill provides that the government cannot punish, fine, or coerce specific people and organizations, in specific contexts. It doesn’t harm anyone.”

Anderson is urging others states as well as the federal government to follow Mississippi’s lead in protecting religious liberty.

“America is in a time of transition. The Supreme Court has redefined marriage, and beliefs about human sexuality are changing. During this time, it is critical to protect the right to dissent and the civil liberties of those who speak and act in accord with what Americans had always previously believed about marriage—that it is the union of husband and wife.”

Good public policy is needed to achieve civil peace amid disagreement, he says, and will protect pluralism and the rights of all Americans.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®  http://www.womenofgrace.com 

 

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