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Hey opposition: Religious freedom doesn't trump everything else!

by Jeremy Hooper

According to the Sioux City Journal, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed a brief in an Iowa same-sex marriage court case, wherein the interfaith religious group has highlighted some possible outcomes that they predict will occur if the state is to allow gay couples to marry. Among their fear-mongery predictions:

--Ministers and preachers could face hate crime or hate speech conspiracy or incitement lawsuits, if after hearing a preacher's strongly worded sermon against same-sex marriage, a congregant commits a hate crime against a person or business.

--Religious groups could lose government funding, tax exempt status or access to other government programs for opposing same-sex marriages.

--Church groups who fire married same-sex employees to make it clear certain behaviors are not condoned may be sued under employment anti-discrimination statutes.

--Some religious employers may refuse, on religious grounds, to provide employment health and retirement benefits to a same-sex spouse, prompting discrimination lawsuits.

--Religious organizations such as colleges may be sued to force them to extend housing benefits given to traditionally married couples.

--Religious institutions offering soup kitchens, hospitals, wedding reception facilities, schools and counseling services may be the subject of discrimination lawsuits if they decline to extend services to same-sex couples.

Claims to which we only have to ask: "Uhm, you kids know we're talking about CIVIL MARRIAGE, right?" Because all of these things deal with discrimination and religious freedom. Should gay marriage be legalized, the issue of whether or not churches and religious organizations can discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation would be exactly as it is now. If you can get away with shunning a gay couple on religious grounds now, then you will be able to get away with shunning a married gay couple once such nuptials are allowed. The element of a legally-binding civil contract will not invalidate the religious exemptions that already allow churches to discriminate against folks for a number of reasons.

Relax -- your right to deny gays their portion of God is unlikely to be challenged!

But even if this group did have a legitimate case, what's really annoying is the way they present it as if their right to religious freedom automatically trumps other rights (including the freedom to not be deprived of rights because of another's faith views). Our opposition seriously seems to think that those of us who are denied marital equality should automatically curb our appeals for fairness out of the possibility that the epidemic of gay-friendliness may eventually infect the religious sector. Call us selfish, but even a legitimate argument (which the above are not) that our legally-recognized civil equality could make religious-based discrimination more difficult, is not one that's going to lead us to park our righteous endeavors! That's not because we are anti-religious freedom. On the contrary, it's because we are very much in favor of the concept, understanding that it also guarantees us the right to not have our secular lives threatened by faith-based initiatives. We only wish our foes did as well.

Interfaith group files brief in Iowa gay marriage case [AP via Sioux City Journal]
**CORRECTION: The Sioux City Journal article is actually an AP wire story.

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