Saturday, December 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

From peyote to sex: Religious liberty fight recast

By
From page C3 | August 17, 2014 |

Not long ago, when religious liberty cases reached the courts, the people seeking protection for their beliefs were mostly from small faith groups and their lawyers were liberals.

The contested issues were narrow: a demand that plain, black Amish buggies carry bright safety triangles, for instance, or bans on hallucinogenic tea in a Native American ritual. The resolutions of these cases were as narrowly drawn as the complaints themselves. A judge might carve out an exemption for the practice in question, and life would go on as usual for everyone else.

But after years of culture wars, and amid recent gains for gay rights, the politics of religious liberty has been transformed. Now exemptions are being sought by the largest faith groups in the country, the burning issues are marriage and sex, and the term religious freedom has taken on a new, politicized meaning.

“Things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years,” said Michael Moreland, vice dean and professor at Villanova University Law School. “Back then, the Catholic Church wasn’t very often in the position of needing exemptions.”

The new terms of the debate were on display in the recent Hobby Lobby case over birth control coverage for workers.

The plaintiff was a multibillion-dollar arts and crafts chain owned by conservative Christians. At stake was broader access to contraception for many women. And the religious leaders championing the Hobby Lobby case were from the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest and second-largest denominations in the country.

The justices ruled June 30 that Hobby Lobby and other closely held private businesses with religious objections could opt out of providing the free contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Many opponents, outraged by the decision, vowed they would fight to repeal the law at the center of the case: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We’ve gone from a moment a quarter century ago where it’s small religious minorities who want to do their thing in private to very large religious minorities — Catholics and evangelicals and Mormons — who feel they’re being oppressed by a hostile society,” said Mark Silk, director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. “Now we’re talking about potentially significant numbers of women who do not get contraceptive coverage, or significant numbers of men and women who are gay and lesbian.”

Smaller-scale religious liberty cases continue to arise, over issues such as wearing a Muslim veil in a driver’s license photo or a Sikh turban to work.

But the loudest cries over religious freedom are coming from the conservative leaders of major religious groups, especially when equal rights for gays and lesbians are at stake. In many state legislatures, bills on recognizing same-sex marriage have been held up — or killed — over disagreements about the breadth of the religious opt-out.

President Barack Obama recently was pressured by groups seeking or opposing a broad new religious accommodation in an executive order on job protection for gay and transgender employees of the federal government or federal contractors. The president did not add an exemption, but left in place a provision that allows faith groups to hire and fire based on religious identity. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the executive order as “extreme.”

Cathleen Kaveny, a Boston College professor of law and theology, said many Americans perceive reactions like these, and demands for exemptions, as an attempt by “losers in the culture war to hold onto a position” that broader society has generally rejected.

“If you lose a political battle, do you get a second bite at the apple — that my religious freedom has been violated?” Kaveny said. “The context has shifted.”

So has the rhetoric. Compromises that resolved many religious liberty disputes in the past seem impossible to reach in the current climate. On gay rights especially, groups see the other side as advocating something deeply immoral and both sides see a moral imperative for an all-out win. It is common now for conservative pastors to vow they would go to jail rather than comply with a law they consider contrary to their beliefs. Gay rights’ supporters, meanwhile, have come to see religious liberty complaints as cover for bigotry.

“We know that conservatives will continue to market their prejudices under the guise of religious freedom,” said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, head of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination formed as a refuge for gay Christians. “Everyone loves religious liberty, but we dare not confuse sincere prejudice with sincere religion.”

Religious exemptions have always had their critics and controversies, but until recently, Americans generally leaned toward accommodating faith groups, even at times when the beliefs in question were considered unpopular, such as religious objections to wartime military service. Exemptions can be found in thousands of laws and regulations nationwide.

In 1990, when this tradition of support appeared in jeopardy, the outrage spanned the political and theological spectrum. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Employment Division v. Smith made it tougher to obtain some religious liberty protections. In response, a wide-ranging coalition, from People for the American Way to the Southern Baptist Convention, won passage of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under the law, the government would have a much more difficult time defending and keeping any laws that infringe on religious freedom.

Yet, four years later, when Congress tried to revise the statute so it would also apply to state laws, the effort failed. The coalition that won passage of the original law was fracturing in part over the coming conflict between civil rights for gays and lesbians and religious freedom for groups who consider same-sex relationships a sin.

After the Hobby Lobby ruling, the more liberal members of the coalition behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act found themselves in an awkward position. When Congress passed the measure nearly unanimously, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law, the statute was expected to mostly help minority faiths carve out space for themselves amid the nation’s Christian majority.

Two decades later, the quest for religious liberty has been turned on its head. The toughest upcoming fights will revolve around how nondiscrimination laws apply to the hundreds of thousands of faith-affiliated social service agencies, colleges and charities that take government money while also trying to maintain their religious identity. Many of the largest nonprofits are run by the Catholic Church and evangelical groups. Government funding worth hundreds of millions of dollars is potentially at stake.

“The heart of this issue is the question of discrimination and the way in which anti-discrimination legislation bumps up against certain kinds of religious liberty,” Silk said. “It set up a deep tension between two strong values in a society: the nondiscrimination and the religious liberty value. Anybody who pretends that that’s a simple thing to resolve — they’re kidding themselves.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • JimboAugust 17, 2014 - 10:48 am

    The elephant in the room: many of these 'churches' actually teach their members that their god thinks they are better than everyone else so criticize anyone different constantly to see themselves as better. They have gone through just about every group of humans on the planet and only stop when society makes them.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Creche collection grows in size, popularity

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Handmade Christmas display is man’s labor of love

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
Company competition a big win for charity

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Meeting a great role model at any age

By Murray Bass | From Page: B5

Fairfield police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Island park in San Francisco Bay closed for weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
No harm caused by flames at Northern California refinery

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Wetter than usual start to new year in California predicted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Hospital to pay $2.2M to settle false claims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Napolitano named as UC public policy professor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Man shocked 20 times during jail booking sues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Notorious California graffiti suspect arrested

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Animal rights activists take California rodeo to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California’s bullet train settles 1 of 7 lawsuits

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies in California at 95

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Bush officials gave CIA wide latitude

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Theater shooter’s parents plead for his life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Driver pleads not guilty in pedestrian deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
5 ways to make your email safer in case of a hack attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Celebrities react to latest Sony hack developments

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
2012 movie massacre hung over ‘Interview’ decision

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Sony on shelving ‘The Interview': ‘We had no choice’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Obama says North Korea hacked Sony, vows response

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

AP Interview: Coelho says Sony hack threatens all

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Jury rules for Indiana woman in firing over IVF

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Bergdahl investigation wraps up; top leaders get briefings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Texas eatery worker gets mink coat from customer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Sugarland, promoter settle with state fair victims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NY police officer suspended after videotaped punch

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Prepackaged caramel apples linked to 4 deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Supreme Court won’t stop gay marriages in Florida

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Staples: Customer data exposed in security breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lava could reach Hawaii shopping center in 8 days

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Israel carries out airstrike on Hamas site in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Pakistan executes militants and bombards tribal areas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Franciscan religious order in ‘grave’ financial crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Australian woman arrested in deaths of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

.

Opinion

Yes, Virginia, the Santa wish list has gone digital

By Petula Dvorak | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
If you want to help the poor, fix the safety net

By Jim Tankersley | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Pampered pets that don duds move to the mainstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B11

Children from wife’s first marriage put father’s ashes in coffin

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B11

 
.

Entertainment

More than 4 million people watched 1st dog telethon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kim Jong Un game spoof ‘Glorious Leader!’ moving forward

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Marathon bombing survivor in ‘Yes to Dress’ finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Kid Rock to perform pre-race concert at Daytona 500

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Actor Stephen Collins denies he’s a pedophile in interview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Dodge, Vaca grad Mason lead Southern Oregon to NAIA title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders haven’t needed much from Janikowski

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP sources: Peavy agrees on $24M, 2-year deal with Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

FIFA will not reopen 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Howe’s family reports rapid improvement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

2 Armstrong associates settle lawsuit with Landis

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rays, Padres, Nats complete 11-player trade involving Myers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Vanden girls open Nike TOC with win on Arizona

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Things to know about Friday’s baseball news

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rookie receivers making their mark in NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former boxing champ Ernie Terrell dies at 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Gold medalist Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, avoids jail time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dodgers end Yanks’ payroll streak, owe most tax

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

CIF football bowl games headed to Sacramento

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

 
Cal men beat Eastern Washington 78-67 for seventh straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

This date in sports history for Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

California unemployment rate dips to 7.2 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Chrysler gives in to gov’t, expands air bag recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

T-Mobile paying at least $90M for unwanted services

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
EPA sets first national standard for coal waste

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales for holiday shopping season comes down to the wire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Judy Zamora Rogers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Home Seller 12/20/14

Real estate transactions for Dec. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2

Ask a Designer: decorating with Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2