There’s a lot of talk these days about the meaning of “religious liberty” and whether or not an individual or corporation may be exempted from various laws if those statutes conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Yesterday, however, the New Mexico Supreme Court took a step toward ending that debate when it said a photographer didn’t have the right to refuse to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony.
Back in 2006, Elaine Huguenin, who owns Elaine Photography along with her husband, refused to take photos of a commitment ceremony for Vanessa Wilcock and her partner. (New Mexico law neither permits nor prohibits same-sex marriage, though the state now issues marriage licenses for same-sex couples.)
Wilcock was able to find another photographer, the Associated Press reported, but she sued Huguenin anyway, claiming a violation of New Mexico’s Human Rights Act.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based Religious Right legal outfit founded by radio and television preachers, said Huguenin had every right not to shoot Wilcock’s ceremony because of her religious beliefs.
But the New Mexico high court didn’t buy that argument, saying in a unanimous decision that Huguenin’s action was the equivalent of refusing to photograph an interracial wedding, the AP reported.
Business owners “have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different,” Justice Richard Bosson wrote in the opinion.
“That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us a people,” Bosson continued. “That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: It is the price of citizenship.”
The court did, however, leave a little wiggle room for people like Huguenin: businesses have the right to advertise that they oppose same-sex marriage, but they still have to comply with anti-discrimination laws, the AP said.
Of course that wasn’t acceptable to Jordan Lorence, the ADF attorney who represented Huguenin.
“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country,” Lorence said in a statement. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free.”
He said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the AP added.
As is so often the case, the court got it exactly right and the ADF is completely wrong. Wilcock was unfairly discriminated against, period. No one has the right to just ignore any human rights laws they don’t like - no matter the reason.
And defending human rights is hardly the act of a dictatorship - in fact, it would seem the responsibility of any democratic government.
The outcome of this case is something the ADF and its allies simply cannot accept, which is why these sorts of issues are going to be argued in courts throughout America for years to come.
That’s why it is critical that judges see things the way the New Mexico Supreme Court did. If not, there is the potential not just for legal chaos, but also for some really ugly acts in the name of “religious expression.”
True religious freedom is about practicing whatever belief system you like, but not to the point that it infringes on the rights of others. Until everyone accepts that, I’m afraid there will be many more instances of hatred justified by piety.
Dangerous Liaisons: How a US Christian Legal Group is Keeping Gay Sex a Criminal Offense Around the World
Once more we see the bogus cause of “religious freedom” used as a thin reed to rationalize their bigotry and hate.
Now, this international battle over the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws has moved to Belize, a Central American country where the government and an array of far-right religious forces are defending the draconian statute known as Section 53, which punishes same-sex “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with 10 years in prison. Though Belize is tiny, the battle has attracted numerous American groups — including the prominent Christian legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — on the pro-criminalization side, providing advice to anti-gay bigots in Belize.
Perhaps that is why neither the ADF, nor any of the other American religious groups involved in Belize, say a word about their involvement in the Belize case on their websites.The ADF is a serious organization. Founded in 1994 by 30 prominent Christian leaders in response to what they saw as “growing attacks on religious freedom,” the organization has an annual budget of more than $30 million, a staff of 44 in-house lawyers and 2,200 allied lawyers. Its board is stacked with luminaries not only from the religious right, but also with partners from powerful law firms and captains of industry.
The ADF believes that religious freedom is under attack worldwide. It has in recent years built an international legal network and placed staffers overseas because it sees “a risk of winning a domestic battle while potentially — in time — losing the world.” Its website states that it is active in 31 foreign countries and describes a number of global initiatives. But it makes no mention of its criminalization work.
There is great hypocrisy here. Surely such work, providing legal or other counsel to keep a law on the books that lands gay people in jail for consensual sex, violates the oft-stated principle of the religious right that their theology teaches to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Perhaps that is why neither the ADF, nor any of the other American religious groups involved in Belize, say a word about their involvement in the Belize case on their websites. They also refuse to speak to the press about the case.
Their work is fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred that already exists in many of the countries where they are injecting themselves. As in Uganda, American groups have been propagandizing about the “recruitment” of young schoolchildren, the allegedly depraved and diseased lives of LGBT people, the pedophilia that is supposedly common among gay men, and the destruction of Christianity and the institution of marriage that they seem certain ending anti-LGBT laws will lead to. This vicious propaganda, born and bred by American ideologues, has found fertile soil across the globe.
The Belize case is important. Overturning Section 53 could lead to the demise of similar statutes in a dozen other Caribbean countries that belong to the Commonwealth of former British colonies. This would mark a major step forward in securing full human rights for the LGBT community. It also could affect the even larger battle of the United Nations to influence scores of countries that signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which took effect in 1976, to outlaw statutes criminalizing gay sex and to prevent anti-LGBT discrimination.
More: Dangerous Liaisons
Less than 24 hours after California started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, lawyers for the sponsors of the state’s same-sex marriage ban filed an emergency motion Saturday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and stop the weddings.
Attorneys with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom claim in the petition that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acted prematurely and unfairly on Friday when it allowed same-sex marriage to resume by lifting a hold it had placed on same-sex unions while a lawsuit challenging the ban made its way to and through the Supreme Court.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks says the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case is not done yet because his clients still have 22 days to ask the justices to reconsider their decision holding that Proposition 8’s backers did not have legal authority to defend the ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage to return to the nation’s most populous state by ruling 5-4 on Wednesday that the sponsors of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex unions lacked authority to defend the measure in court.
The actual Filing is here
The application argues that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case is not yet “final,” so the stay must remain in place. The Supreme Court ordinarily does not issue its formally binding ruling – known as the “judgment” – in a case from a federal court of appeals until 25 days after it releases its “opinion.” Because the Court issued its opinion in the Proposition 8 case on June 26, it would by default not issue the judgment until Monday, July 22. (The 25th day is July 21, a Sunday.) The principal point of that delay is to permit the losing party to prepare and submit a petition for rehearing to the Justices, though such petitions are as a practical matter never granted.
The parties could ask the Supreme Court to expedite the release of the judgment. That is in fact what occurred last week in the “Baby Girl” Native American adoption case. After a request by the petitioner, the Court ordered the mandate issued in 7 days, rather than the usual 25.
Absent such a request, most observers expected that same-sex marriage in California (in the places in the State it did become available) would not begin again for roughly a month. Even if the court of appeals was not required as a matter of law to wait, that appeared to be the more measured and prudent course. But the Ninth Circuit acted more quickly, lifting the stay before the Supreme Court’s ruling became effective.
Whether the emergency request to Justice Kennedy can succeed is unclear. But it is unlikely. As a formal matter, the Ninth Circuit did not put the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case into effect prematurely. The Supreme Court held that the proponents of Proposition 8 could not file appeals in federal court. That ruling says nothing about imposing or lifting a stay on same-sex marriage. The court of appeals likely has the authority to act with respect to its own previously entered stay, which is a form of controlling its own docket. Although the court of appeals had previously stated that they stay would remain in effect until the Supreme Court’s ruling was final, it presumably can change its mind.
Religious Right groups spend a lot of time beating on church-state separation. TV preacher Pat Robertson once called that constitutional principle “a lie of the left” and said it comes from the old Soviet Constitution.
Not to be outdone, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association asserted that Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation.
Others have been less hyperbolic but have still made it clear that they’re no fans of the handiwork of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Take Alan Sears, for example. Sears runs the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the nation’s largest Religious Right legal group. He once called the church-state wall “artificial.”
Funny, though, how that “artificial” wall that the Religious Right tells us over and over doesn’t exist and was never intended by the Founding Fathers can come in handy sometimes - like when the right wing wants to attack yoga in public schools.
In Encinitas, Calif., an attorney named Dean Broyles has filed suit against the Encinitas Union School District, asserting that a voluntary yoga program for students violates church-state separation. Broyles runs a small legal outfit called the National Center for Law and Policy, which, according to its website, defends “faith, family and freedom.”
Broyles is proud of his association with the ADF and notes that he “has received extensive training in pro-family, pro-life and pro-religious liberty matters at ADF’s outstanding National Litigation Academies (NLA). Because of Dean’s pro-bono work, he was invited to receive special training at ADF’s advanced NLA. Dean is proud to be an ADF affiliate attorney and member of ADF’s honor guard.”
Was Broyles asleep when Sears explained that separation of church and state doesn’t exist? How else can we explain his use of the principle in this lawsuit?
Or could it be that Broyles and the ADF are just being hypocritical? They have no use for separation of church and state when they’re trying to inject fundamentalist Christianity into the public schools. When that’s their game, they tell the courts, the media, and the American people that separation is not a valid legal principle. When they’re attacking what they perceive to be school promotion of a religion they don’t care for, suddenly the church-state wall is their best friend.
Broyles is arguing that the yoga program violates Article I, Section 4 of the California Constitution. That provision is longer than the federal constitution’s First Amendment but essentially provides for the same measure of church-state separation.
It reads in part, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed…. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
In a press release, Broyles observes that the yoga program “represents a prime example of precisely why in America we wisely forbid the government from picking religious winners and losers, especially when you have a captive audience of very young and impressionable children as we do in our public schools.”
I agree wholeheartedly with that part about the dangers of the government picking religious winners and losers in public schools and the need to shield impressionable children from coerced religious activity. I just wish the ADF and its allies applied that standard to all religions.
I don’t know if Broyles has a case. A lot of people these days practice yoga for secular reasons - mainly as a relaxation and stress-reduction tool. But if Broyles can prove that the school’s use of it has a religious component or that it’s a feeder into a religious program, he deserves to win. The court has an obligation to consider the matter carefully.
I’m not bothered by the case. What bothers me is that the people behind it are raising church-state separation when they normally have no use for that concept. They seem to believe separation should be ignored when conservative Christians want to use public schools and other units of government to promote their faith but applied vigorously to every other religious group.
Sorry, guys, it doesn’t work that way. Separation of church and state is the best policy for all religions - and that includes the ones you like best.
A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping a 14-year-old girl having sex with two men on multiple occasions.
Lisa Biron, 43, of Manchester faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison after a jury convicted her yesterday after deliberating for less than an hour.
Biron, arrested by the FBI last November, was accused of eight felony counts involving the videotaping of men having sex with the girl. She also allegedly made a cellphone video of herself having sex with the girl.
Biron, who claimed on her Facebook page (which was taken down, according to the Concord Monitor) that the Bible was her favorite book, had worked with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), formerly the Alliance Defense Fund, in defending a Pentecostal church in Concord in a tax fight against the city.
The Arizona-based ADF calls itself a “servant ministry” that seeks to transform the legal system and advocate “for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” The group issues dire warnings about “the homosexual agenda” and offers a book (available for a donation of $35) by its president, Alan Sears, and senior director Craig Osten, with that title. In the book, the authors claim that “the homosexual agenda” will destroy religious liberty and free speech. In one chapter, they claim that homosexuality on college campuses leads to pedophilia, and that homosexuality and pedophilia “are intrinsically linked,” a falsehood long perpetuated by the anti-gay right to demonize LGBT people.
In the wake of Biron’s arrest, the ADF removed all mentions of her from its website and Facebook page, and in a November CBS News report said that Biron was never an employee. The group has released no further statements on Biron. According to the LGBT blog Joe.My.God., the group continued to remove mentions of her from its Facebook page yesterday and banned anyone who posted anything about her.