Religious freedom at heart of same-sex marriage political battle and Franklin Graham criticizes Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination

By Junior Mayema,

The scope of the battle for a homophobia free generation in the USA is reaching dangerous level with religious extremists concentrating their bases on states level and implementing religious freedom to discriminate laws here are two articles that shed light on what is happening so far below:

Religious freedom at heart of same-sex marriage political battle

Graphic for STATES story charting which states are legislating freedom of religion.

A state-by-state break down of controversial legislation.

A wave of legislation by conservative lawmakers seeks to ostracize gay and lesbian citizens at the state level even as the Supreme Court prepares to establish what would amount to a national standard on same-sex marriage.

Even in states such as Indiana and Nevada, where same-sex couples have won the right to obtain a marriage license, defiant lawmakers are pushing scores of bills that would uphold their view that marriage must only be between one man and one woman.

The collection of measures is piling up, with at least 70 filed so far this year.

The wide-ranging bills would prohibit same-sex parents from adopting; penalize government employees who issue marriage licenses; and create loopholes for what amounts to discrimination against LGBT couples on religious grounds.

They have been filed in more than one-third of the 50 states, including Texas, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama.

“Texas legislators are acting to make certain — if the outcome of (the Supreme Court’s ruling) is not palpable to Texas — to not be impacted by the outcome,” said Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., a Republican member of the state House in the Lone Star State whose package of measures would effectively supercede a federal ruling.


The legislator behind four of Texas’ so-called anti-LGBT bills, Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., is shown on Feb. 24 slicing a cake celebrating the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

LGBT advocates are confident the majority of the laws will be voted down or tossed out in court challenges.

Still, they say, the message is being delivered loud and clear: opponents of same-sex marriage do not plan to go down quietly.

“Why have those battles when these bills are so clearly flawed and full of animus?” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign.


The measures most likely to find traction – and possibly, enactment – are the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts found in states like Michigan, Indiana and Georgia.

All are patterned after a federal law signed by former President Bill Clinton, which was intended to protect religious freedoms. It’s now being twisted by what opponents say is to justify the denial of rights to same-sex couples by those whose objections stem from their religious beliefs.

President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the White House's South Lawn in 1993 to prevent laws from burdening a person's religious beliefs without a compelling justification.THE U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES

President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the White House’s South Lawn in 1993 to prevent laws from burdening a person’s religious beliefs without a compelling justification.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was meant to counteract a 1990 Supreme Court ruling in Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, a case in which Alfred Smith and Galen Black had been fired and denied unemployment benefits for smoking peyote in a Native American religious ceremony.

The Court ruled the state was justified in doing so, but the law guaranteed a new set of religious-based protections.

Now, conservative lawmakers want to use religion as a means to justify objections to same-sex marriage, though marriage equality advocates call it a misguided bid.

“It was never intended to be used as a shield for discrimination against other people,” said Rose Saxe, a New York-based staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Opponents fear the latest round of statutes would give florists, photographers, caterers and other business owners the latitude to deny same-sex couples their services, simply by citing religious beliefs.


Protesters opposed Michigan’s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act in January, when a rainbow flag flew during Gov. Rick Snyder’s second inaugural ceremony. Its bill would allow a person to cite their religious beliefs as a claim or defense in court.

The measures, if approved, would be increasingly difficult to prove unconstitutional due to federal precedent, Warbelow said.

“It sounds like religious freedom, but it’s really about discrimination against people under the cloak of religion,” Warbelow added.

Such policies have been attempted in 13 states this year, and have so far been defeated in five.

A bill under consideration in Michigan would allow adoption agencies to cite religious grounds in rejecting applications by would-be gay parents.

Saxe fears the bills based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could have ramifications outside the realm of the LGBT community, including religious challenges to child welfare cases and vaccination requirements.

Even presumptive Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has come out in favor of so-called religious discrimination measures.

“Religious freedom is a serious issue, and it’s increasingly so,” the former Florida governor said Thursday outside the Georgia Statehouse. “And I think people that act on their conscience shouldn’t be discriminated against, for sure.”


Georgia state Sen. Joshua McKoon, author of what opponents have called the legislation with the gravest of consequences, argues his policies have engendered scrutiny among “desperate” liberal groups citing a “laundry list of absurd hypothetical situations that have never occurred in the real world.”


Georgia state Sen. Joshua McKoon, center, is the author of a broadly written Georgia bill that has fired up liberal groups for language that could lead to discrimination against the LGBT community.

“It’s never been interpreted to protect against discrimination,” McKoon said.

Bell, the Texas lawmaker, said his bills reflect the state’s history of conservative values and are predicated on states’ rights to do so.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next month in a challenge to state bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. A landmark ruling, which would effectively resolve the debate and establish a national standard, is expected before the judicial term ends in June.

In the event the Court prohibits states from denying a marriage license to same-sex couples, Bell says lawmakers have filed more than 20 bills that would insulate the Lone Star State from the mandate.

His Marriage and Religious Rights Ensured Act would grant “conscientious objector” status to anybody wishing to deny services to same-sex couples on the basis of religious belief.

He cited the case of a florist in Richland, Wash., who was fined by the state for denying a gay couple service for their wedding.

“We don’t want that in Texas,” Bell told the Daily News. “It’s important that we allow all businesses in Texas to … have the ability to not be put in that position.”

Proposed legislation in Texas would stop government employees from handing out marriage licenses and judges from issuing court orders, which is what happened when Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend, married Feb. 19. ERIC GAY/AP

Proposed legislation in Texas would stop government employees from handing out marriage licenses and judges from issuing court orders, which is what happened when Suzanne Bryant, left, and Sarah Goodfriend, married Feb. 19.

Bell’s proposals would also transfer the authority to issue marriage licenses in Texas from county clerks to the Secretary of State’s office, and institute monetary penalties for any state official caught handing out a marriage license to same-sex couples.

In Oklahoma, lawmakers – exasperated after the defeat of several bills – are moving to give members of the clergy the responsibility of performing almost all marriages and issuing licenses (the state would still collect a fee).

And here is another story on how religious extremists are attacking churches that are trying to become inclusive and welcoming places for LGBT people below:

Franklin Graham criticizes Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination

Rev. Franklin Grahamimage:

Rev. Franklin Graham
Rev. Franklin Graham
Evangelist Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has criticized the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination for redefining marriage in its constitution to include a “commitment between two people.”

WND reported leaders of PCUSA congregations voted to change the definition of marriage from the union of “a man and a woman” to “two people.” The new policy allowing the church to marry homosexual couples will take effect June 21.

“In His Word, the Bible, God has already defined marriage, as well as sin,” wrote Graham on his Facebook page, “and we should obey that rather than looking for ways to redefine it according to the desires of our culture. Marriage is defined as between a man and a woman – end of discussion. Anything else is a sin against God, and He will judge all sin one day.”

The PCUSA has been steadily losing members as it moves to the left theologically. Graham’s stance on the church’s position resonated with readers, and his post has been “liked” over 116,000 times and shared over 28,000 times so far.

Graham has been an outspoken critic of redefining marriage. In a Dec. 11, 2014, interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly about cases of Christian persecution throughout the world, Graham said America is “morally crumbling within” and has turned its back on God.

Comments on Graham’s Facebook post have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Churches deciding to sin against God!” wrote one person. “How can they still be called a church? They are just a building. Pastors who are not men of God’s word cannot be pastors anymore. Just men!”

Others disagreed with Graham’s stance.

“Wow. Way to continue the close minded cycle that continues to plague the Christian faith. GO PRESBYTERIANS!”

The issue of “gay” marriage will be argued before the Supreme Court on April 28.


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