Passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Jason Hall - Passing Bill


In my last piece for Catholic Stand, I discussed the effort in Kentucky to adopt a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the surprisingly vocal opposition that effort inspired. Though Governor Steve Beshear did veto the bill, the General Assembly ultimately overrode the veto. I believe there are several useful lessons to be learned from our experience that might benefit those defending religious liberty at the national level and in other states.

Be prepared for scare tactics related to civil rights. The primary argument used by the opposition, and the one that generated the most sympathy, was that protection of religious liberty will override civil rights laws. This has never been the case, and those who have honestly explored the issue will admit that. Anti-discrimination laws covering housing, employment, and other such basic necessities have always prevailed over religious liberty interests. But, the opposition needs to make a sympathetic case, and scaring people about the imminent end of civil rights protection seems to be the best they can do.

Know the opposition and their goals. As I discussed in my previous article, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union used to support straightforward statutory protections for religious liberty. In recent years, however, their position has changed. Homosexual activist groups have convinced many that their cause is the contemporary equivalent of the civil rights movement and to oppose them is to be like segregationists in the 1960’s.

It is certainly true that unjust discrimination against persons based on same-sex attraction is to be avoided, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. However, our society has lost the ability to differentiate between persons and activities. It is one thing to prohibit a landlord from discriminating against classes of persons when leasing apartments in a 40-unit building. It is quite another to compel a wedding photographer to participate in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony. On several occasions, opponents of the religious freedom bill explicitly told me they feel the government should be able to compel acceptance of and participation in such ceremonies, and that was motivating their opposition. Of course, publicly they focused on the entirely false claims discussed above, that all forms of unjust discrimination would be legally justifiable on religious grounds if our bill were to pass.

Collect real-life stories to illustrate the very serious threat to religious liberty. We have no shortage of cases of religious institutions or associations being forced to violate their faith or close their doors. Movements exist, and are gaining momentum, to limit religious practice to private prayer and attendance at worship services. For example, there is a growing movement to ban circumcision. Under current legal precedent in many states, if a state, or even a city, were to pass such a ban, there would be no religious liberty objection that could prevail against it in court. Also, just a few years ago, the Connecticut legislature attempted to dictate how the Catholic Church had to organize itself, effectively attacking the proper authority of the local bishop. The media will mock the very idea that religious liberty is being threatened, so having real cases at your fingertips is a necessity.

Don’t be surprised by overt anti-religious bigotry. Most of the opposition to the bill in Kentucky was misguided but sincere, and based upon fears legitimately held but not legitimate on the merits. However, there were some, including some legislators, who opposed it simply because “the Catholics” were for it. One member, herself a former Unitarian minister, said on the floor of the House of Representatives that she wouldn’t meet with groups of Catholic constituents and would oppose anything the Catholic bishops proposed. That viewpoint was, thankfully, only held by a few, but it was jarring to encounter it in such a public way.

Know that you have greater numbers than your opponents. In Kentucky, we were very fortunate to have a broad coalition of religious groups who supported the religious liberty bill and were able to generate large numbers of phone calls and emails to legislators. The opposition was able to get a great deal of sympathetic media coverage, but outside of a couple of major urban areas, did not seem capable of generating large numbers of contacts.

Some of these lessons could be applied to any number of controversial issues. Unfortunately, however, protecting religious liberty has become one of the most controversial, and yet most important, issues we face. The ability to live out one’s faith free from state harassment is not only important for people of faith, but for the social and political health of our nation.

© 2013. Jason Hall. All Rights Reserved.

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

14 thoughts on “Passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act”

  1. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail.
    I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  2. The property manager is the person that will make the critical day
    to day decisions that go into operating a property. Long-term buy and hold investing is
    one of the oldest investment vehicles traced back hundreds if not thousands
    of years. An ideal first step in properly selecting
    a good property management company is to undertake your own homework.

  3. Let’s think of words that sound dirty but really aren’t.
    t want to forget to buy your all star game tickets at Angels Stadium from
    an independent ticket broker that cares more about
    customer satisfaction than the bottom line.
    It is recommended that the golfers select those
    putters with which the golfers feel good and works well with their gaming pattern.

  4. Similar to the cue ball that is shot in pools; this game involves coins
    and strikers that are essential to play carrom game.
    All spaceship game leveling systems are designed slightly
    differently, but there are some general concepts that apply to all games in this genre.
    In this addictive puzzle game, catch that damn fly and avoid
    those tricky obstacles.

  5. Your distinction between people and activities is interesting, but I think I need a little clarification. What happens if a racist florist refuses to sell to a couple celebrating an interracial marriage based on his religious belief? Many segregationists believed that miscegenation was an abomination according to their particular Christian creed (a judge in the Loving case even quoted the Bible in defending segregation if I’m not mistaken). And if it’s ok for a segregationist florist to refuse to sell flowers for an interracial wedding, is it also ok for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to an interracial couple on the same basis? It seems to me that the legal distinction may not be as clear as you think, but hopefully you can sort this out for me. Thanks.

    1. There is a difference between a public accommodation and a private business. Civil rights laws are based on the idea of a public accommodation. A restaurant who is ostensibly open to the public cannot discriminate who they will sell food to. A caterer, on the other hand, can decline to provide catering services for whatever reason they choose, because they provide contract services. A florist or photographer can similarly refuse to provide a *contract service* for a wedding.
      A landlord is in a different category specifically because of the Fair Housing Act, which only really applies to housing-related businesses, such as mortgagers, landlords, etc. However, there are caveats even in that law, otherwise it would be illegal to have seniors-only homes and retirement communities.
      There are no laws saying that businesspeople MUST accept every contract offered to them, nor should there be.

  6. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for.
    Would you offer guest writers to write content for you?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome blog!

    Here is my blog :: bankruptcy florida

  7. Pingback: Passing the <b>Religious Freedom</b> Restoration Act : Catholic Stand | Christian News

  8. Pingback: Inner City Parish Revival Using Orthodox Catholicism - Big Pulpit


  10. Pingback: Can Humans See Bodiless Angels? - BIG PULPIT

  11. Once upon a time, you could legally beat your wife and children.
    Once upon a time, you could even legally put them to death.
    Once upon a time, offering angry strangers at your door your daughters to be gang-raped was virtuous.

    Once upon a time mutilating your child’s genitals was a mark of a covenant.

    How I wish all these were just “once upon a time.”

  12. Pingback: Passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - CATHOLIC FEAST - Sync your Soul

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: