Editorial / Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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This is far from the first Easter Sunday that dawns amid social turmoil in the name of religion, but of its type it might be unique.
What’s not unique is that religion and politics are being mixed, used for ends far from the spirit of religion, and social turmoil is the result.
The background now is a trend toward recognition of same-sex marriage and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Federal district and appeals courts have struck down laws and even state constitutional amendments forbidding same-sex marriage.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the issue this month and to rule on the constitutionality of such bans by the end of June.
In response, legislative proposals are sweeping across several states, including Texas, to add new laws or alter existing ones in the name of protecting people who hold religious objections to acknowledging same-sex marriage, even selling flowers or a wedding cake to a same-sex couple for their marriage ceremony.
J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, an influential group in getting the federal religious freedom law passed in 1993, says that the flare-up comes because of subtle changes in wording.
In a Feb. 19 report, Walker writes that the federal law “embodies a delicately balanced formula by which courts can adjudicate religious liberty claims while seeking to protect important interests of society generally or the well-being of third parties…”
For example, the federal law provides protection only if the court finds a “substantial burden” on religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court last year found it a substantial burden to require Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned company, to cover birth control in its employee insurance plans.
But courts can decide what’s “substantial” case-by-case, Walker writes.
Now some lawmakers are trying to “tilt the playing field,” he adds.
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