While the ink is still wet on Justice Kennedy’s controversial decision to legalize gay marriage, the ACLU has dropped its support of the Federal ‘Religious Freedom’ law.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed to prevent citizens from having to choose between their religious beliefs and negative recourse. President Clinton signed RFRA into law in 1993 saying that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.”
The case that brought about RFRA was Employment Division v. Smith in 1990. In that case, two American Indians had been fired from their jobs for consuming peyote which is used in their tribal ceremonies.
The case made it to the Supreme Court which ruled that the firing was to be upheld because they could not use a religious exemption to circumvent federal law.
With RFRA in place, several groups have been afforded accommodation that would otherwise have ended their employment. For those cases, the ACLU was not only greatly in support of the law, but actually helped to use it.
Turn the page to today when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. What made the ACLU suddenly change their mind?
Louis Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU wrote an op-ed posted in the Washington Post today telling us exactly why the ACLU changed their minds on RFRA:
The RFRA wasn’t meant to force employees to pay a price for their employer’s faith, or to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay and transgender people
The timing is impeccable. There will certainly be a wave of gay couples demanding that Christian bakers and photographers, pastors and priests bend to their will and submit to serving their wedding – or they’ll send in the lawyers.
While the ACLU takes the side of the gay and transgender public, they afford no weight to the rights of the business owners – who also happen to be American citizens with rights.
Forcing an employer to pay for something that is clearly against his religious ideals is perhaps a bigger affront as the employee could simply choose not to work at a business that operates upon the basis of faith. The employer could be threatened with legal action if he chose not to pay for things he was against.
The same argument applies to those that would be forced to service gay weddings. If the person, through the faith, finds an activity offensive, they should have the right to avoid participation. The ACLU apparently disagrees.