The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a new briefing report last week entitled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Policies with Civil Liberties. If a peaceful coexistence exists it leans toward LGBT rights, not religious liberty.
The report presented testimony from 11 different experts, statements and rebuttals by Commission members, highlighted public comments. Here are the reports findings:
- Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of preeminent importance in American jurisprudence.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed the foremost importance of civil liberties and civil rights, including non-discrimination laws and policies, in three significant cases: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch Stores, Inc., and Obergefell v. Hodges.
- Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.
- The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause constricts the ability of government actors to curtail private citizens’ rights to the protections of non-discrimination laws and policies. Although the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) limit the ability of government actors to impede individuals from practicing their religious beliefs, religious exemptions from non-discrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis.
- With regard to federal government actions, RFRA protects only First Amendment free exercise rights of religious practitioners and not their Establishment Clause freedoms.
- In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed the narrowness of the analytical framework within which claims of government interference with the free exercise of religion must be construed under RFRA.
- The Commission endorses the briefing panelists’ statements as summarized at page 21 of the Report in support of these Findings.
They further write:
(1) schools must be allowed to insist on inclusive values; 2) throughout history, religious doctrines accepted at one time later become viewed as discriminatory, with religions changing accordingly; 3) without exemptions, groups would not use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate; 4) a doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply; 5) third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers [unless the employer is allowed to impose such constraints by virtue of the ministerial exception]; 6) a basic [civil] right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs; and 7) even a widely accepted doctrine such as the ministerial exemption should be subject to review as to whether church employees have religious duties.
Further, specifically with regard to number (2) above, religious doctrines that were widely accepted at one time came to be deemed highly discriminatory, such as slavery, homosexuality bans, and unequal treatment of women, and that what is considered within the purview of religious autonomy at one time would likely change.
They then offer their recommendations:
- Overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies. Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.
- RFRA protects only religious practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.
- In the absence of controlling authority to the contrary such as a state-level, RFRA-type statute, the recognition of religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws and policies should be made pursuant to the holdings of Employment Division v. Smith, which protect religious beliefs rather than conduct.
- Federal legislation should be considered to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.
- States with RFRA-style laws should amend those statutes to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions. States with laws modeled after RFRA must guarantee that those statutes do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights with status-based discrimination.
No surprise in their view religious exemptions should be narrowly limited and should not apply to Christian-owned businesses. So forget religious conscience protections for those business owners.
Their statement: “religious doctrines that were widely accepted at one time came to be deemed highly discriminatory, such as slavery, homosexuality bans, and unequal treatment of women.”
There has always been disagreement in the church over the role of women and slavery. In fact, many of the abolitionists and women’s suffrage advocates were in fact Christian, and this report totally glosses over that fact. There has been and continues to be consensus over homosexuality. Those who have dismissed that consensus have also rejected scripture’s inerrancy in such matters. The Bible for instance addresses slavery, it never advocates for it. Also, scripture addresses gender roles as they pertain to the Church and home, but it is silent in terms of the civil realm, work and voting.
Scripture never condones homosexuality.
Basically you have a federal agency that is telling the church that its view of homosexuality is “highly discriminatory” and will likely change.
We definitely see that happening in liberal mainline churches, but like I said they rejected the authority of scripture long ago.
Also you have the fact that one’s race and one’s biological sex (I would also add gender) are immutable. LGBT persons choose to be that way. There is still no evidence that suggests otherwise, and a recent study affirms this.
Also I don’t want to neglect pointing out that sexual orientation and gender identity are still NOT protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Obama administration by executive order has attempted to extend protections, but that language has not been codified. So I have to ask under what constitutional and legal mandate is the U.S. Civil Rights Commission pursuing the protection of LGBT rights? There is none.
Martin Castro, an Obama appointee, is the chair of the commission. In the report he made the following statement.
The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.
Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse (just like the concept of “state rights”) in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.
If that statement doesn’t encapsulate the radical, and frankly biased, direction of the USCCR I don’t know what will. Religious liberty isn’t about diminishing the rights of others. It’s about protecting the religious conscience for people who do not want to participate in activity that violates scripture. It isn’t about Christian supremacy. It’s about making certain a Christian’s civil rights are protected as well.
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