Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Starts New Religious Freedom War

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at Family Research Council. This article was co-written with Kelly Shackelford, Esq., CEO and Chief Counsel of Liberty Institute. This article appeared in Investor's Business Daily on June 26, 2015.

Observant Christians — and adherents of other faiths — are reeling from the Supreme Court's declaration of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and preparing for an unprecedented struggle for their right to express their beliefs and live their lives accordingly, as new battles will now be waged unless and until a future Supreme Court reverses course.

The Constitution says nothing about marriage or abortion. Yet in 1973 the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to abortion, resulting in decades of relentless political and legal conflicts.

Now the Court has held that the Constitution likewise forbids the 50 states from defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But many people of faith disagree, and the First Amendment promises that they have the right to do so. Devout Christians are already enmeshed in legal battles over this issue.

Navy chaplain Wes Modder, sportscaster Craig James and others have lost jobs or are losing their jobs because they hold Christian beliefs on sex and marriage.

Business owners face more than losing their businesses, as Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman could lose her home and life's savings, and Colorado baker Jack Phillips risks jail time if he continues refusing to bake cakes celebrating gay marriage. There are others, and the list grows monthly.

A Right We All Have

Their legal rights are no different from Hobby Lobby's to refuse to cover abortion under ObamaCare. Whether from a state or federal RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) or the Constitution's First Amendment, all Americans have the right to believe what their faith teaches and live according to those beliefs. This freedom is for Christians, Jews and peaceful adherents of all faiths.

Gay-rights advocates are escalating the fight. With Executive Order 13672, President Obama is taking administrative action whereby organizations that do not embrace his beliefs on marriage can be denied contracts with, or grants from, the federal government.

Additional regulatory moves are advancing from the Departments of Labor, Education and Housing and Urban Development, and other federal agencies. And many on the political left are pushing for new federal legislation that would go even further.

The most recent trend, SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws and ordinances, is a solution in search of a problem. We do not know of a single Christian denomination (out of more than 400) with a doctrinal belief that if you own a restaurant and know a customer is homosexual, it is immoral for you to sell that person a cheeseburger.

All SOGIs do is provide yet another route for suing Christians — or observant members of various other faiths — for expressing and living their beliefs.

Ultimately, one of these cases will make its way to the Supreme Court, where the justices will decide the First Amendment rights of Americans who sincerely believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

While marriage appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, there are no fewer than three fundamental rights enshrined in the text of the First Amendment to safeguard religious liberty. This includes the quintessentially American right to dissent, to hold views different from the government and current popular thought.

Our National DNA

Many see the Supreme Court's decision as the end. Instead, it's the beginning — of a new war over religious freedom.

America was founded by settlers who yearned to be able to live according to their religious beliefs, crossing an ocean searching for a home where they could experience the blessing we call liberty. They called America a shining city upon a hill, where people would live free with a clear conscience, even if they disagreed with the majority or those in power.

Our nation's founders would be astounded to see religious liberty come full circle and now come under attack, but they would not be surprised to see this generation rise up like the first Americans, demanding freedom to believe, and pass this latest test of who we are as a people. Two hundred years of law and American history are on the side of those committed to be true to their religious beliefs, a commitment embedded in our national DNA.

Moreover, 2,000 years of church history shows that those to call Jesus Christ their lord will never compromise their beliefs, no matter the cost. For centuries, faithful Christians have endured the loss of their freedoms, livelihoods, homes and even lives. Secularists who confidently believe that Christians will eventually give up couldn't be more wrong.

If politicians and the courts do not reverse course, we will see civil disobedience, on a massive scale, by devout Christians peacefully following their churches' biblical teachings on marriage. The Supreme Court and the American people at the polls in 2016 need to decide whether this country will respect their First Amendment rights, including their fundamental right to dissent.