Since the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, affirming the right of same-gender couples throughout the country to marry, some politicians and pundits have claimed religious liberty is now threatened in our nation.
“This decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty,” said Mike Huckabee. Bobby Jindal said the decision was the start of an “all-out assault on religious freedom.” Ted Cruz said, “Religious liberty has never been so threatened as it is today.”
Of course, that’s not true. The decision has no adverse impact on any religious institutions or faith leaders. In fact, the decision has quite the opposite impact. It’s a victory for religious liberty.
Now churches, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship throughout our great nation may host marriages according to their beliefs. Now reverends, rabbis, priests, imams, and other faith leaders may solemnize marriages from sea to shining sea according to their beliefs. It’s pretty simple. To understand the reality of the situation, all one needs is five easy pieces:
One – Our Constitution’s First Amendment contains an establishment clause, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That means the government may not compel any faith leader or religious institution to participate in any religious ceremony, nor may it prevent those faith leaders and religious institutions from participating in those ceremonies.
Two – Our Constitution’s 14th Amendment contains an equal protection clause, which states that states shall not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” That means the government must apply laws equally to all persons.
Three – The Obergefell decision held that “The 14th Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.” It says nothing about clergy, nothing about religious institutions. No mention of religion.
Four – Iowa Code Chapter 595.10 covers “who may solemnize” weddings in Iowa: judges and faith leaders. No “must” or “shall,” but simply “may.” Nothing compels judges or faith leaders to solemnize weddings.
Five – Iowa Code Chapter 216.7 covers unfair practices in accommodations and services. Paragraph two says this section does not apply to “bona fide religious institutions.” Houses of worship are not compelled to provide any wedding services.
The Obergefell ruling has no adverse affect on religious institutions and faith leaders. Religious liberty is not threatened; indeed, quite the opposite. Religious institutions and faith leaders may practice their faith without coercion from the government. Those who wish may continue to discriminate if they choose, and those who wish may solemnize weddings in accordance with their beliefs.
Religious liberty is strengthened by this ruling. Those politicians and pundits who tell you otherwise are either ignorant of the law or lying to you.
And, last time I checked, lying is a sin.
Rev. Joe Stutler