Of course, Labrador is named after a dog or Canadian province, but that’s another column all together.
If passed, David Christianson of the religious right Family Research Council says that the bill will affirm “that a person’s religious belief in the importance of natural marriage should be treated with tolerance and respect by the federal government.” It will assure that the IRS will not pull a religious institution’s 501(c)(3) status if it promotes “traditional” marriage and refuses benefits to same-sex couples.
OK, I can see the arguments firing up in your tightly packed gray matter. You are either saying that non-profit status to religious institutions is a violation of the First Amendment’s Separation clause or you are saying that non-profit status is protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. And I believe both are right. (How’s that for a copout.)
If a business is privately held and that business, because of its affiliation with a religious institution, denies benefits to same-sex couples as it provides to opposite-sex couples, that is their business. Those of us who support marriage equality can boycott the business or simply not apply for a job. On the other hand, separate-but-equal has been declared unequal in the eyes of the courts.
Allow me to try a different path. One of the most important portions of benefits includes healthcare, dental care, and life insurance. Kathy’s employer has elected not to insurance not married couples. If a same-sex couple is married in, let’s say, Massachusetts and because Missouri does not recognize same-sex marriages, the employer can deny coverage to the employee’s spouse.
Understand it is usually not the insurance company doing this. Co-habitants and non-traditional couples can be insured if the employer makes the request. This has always been deemed as a business transaction and, therefore, not challenged in the courts. But what if it is…
With this summer’s Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act may see the same iceberg and sink like the Titanic. (See: SCOTUS and Marriage Equality)
As our national morals change concerning the definition of “marriage,” and more states recognize or enact marriage equality laws, businesses may have a harder time denying benefits to same-sex couples as provided to an opposite sex couple.
If passed, it will be up to the courts to determine who is exempt. Religious beliefs of a business owner may not qualify for and exemption from the law. Businesses and non-profits who receive federal funding may not be exempt from this law. Religious institutions, especially education institutions who receive government research grants, Pell Grants on behalf of its students and others federal funding, may not be exempt from the law. Lady of Our Lord Church, however, may be.
But the courts have already provided protections to those whose religious affiliation or beliefs are contrary to certain laws. Conscientious Objector from the military or combat duty status for religion reasons is a prime example. We allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions to refuse to hire a person because of that person’s religious beliefs or perceived “morals.”
In fact, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act is not necessary and yet another waist of our time and money by the religious right who believe that is a war against Christianity. There is not.
David is booking speaking and interviews for 2013. Contact him at Dave@InkandVoice.com