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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious freedom and religious liberty.

Part 1: Perceived conflicts between
religious freedom and same-sex marriage.

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In this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians,
gays, bisexuals, transgender persons & transsexuals.

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  • Michael Terrance Worley. "Attacks on religious freedom will continue and combine unless we change a culture about overly broad anti-discrimination laws ..." 1 (He refers here to city and state human rights legislation.)

  • Judge Vincent Howard, Marathon County Circuit Court, Wisconsin. "The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief, but not necessarily conduct."2

  • Ken Ham. "... we’ve been told that Christians don’t need to worry — we are free to have our beliefs, but that is demonstrably not true. The government is clearly no longer respecting or upholding the First Amendment. Instead, it is punishing people for having — and holding to — religious convictions, namely Christian ones. 3

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About recent religious freedom conflicts:

The term "marriage equality" means to allow both opposite-sex and same-sex couples to marry. It has been a high profile religious topic ever since 1991 when a same-sex couple in Hawaii attempted to obtain a marriage license. That triggered a series of conflicts throughout the U.S. that has lasted for 23 years (and counting). In recent years, many commentators have written about what they perceive as a conflict between same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Many refer to the conflict as a "zero sum" matter in which any movement by by a state towards marriage equality can only be attained at the expense of religious freedom in that state -- and vice-versa.

One excellent article on this conflict was written by Michael Terence Worley for the Deseret News. 4 This is a newspaper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the LDS or Mormon Church. He is a law student at Brigham Young University in Utah which is also a Mormon institution. He has interned with the Marriage Law Foundation -- a non-profit organization that "... works closely with other pro-family organizations to accomplish its mission of reaffirming the legal definition of marriage as [restricted to] the union of a husband and wife." 5 He has also interned with the "Becket Fund for Religious Liberty," a Christian "non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths." 6 That group is named after St. Thomas Becket, a Christian Archbishop of Canterbury in England -- a martyr who was assassinated in 1170 CE.

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Worley's article in the Deseret News supports common conservative Christian beliefs. He wrote:

"Thus far, there have been three major religious freedom concerns associated with the advent of same-sex marriage, be they social or otherwise."

1. "The most frequently discussed concern is when laws require organizations and businesses to do something that they believe is wrong."

Here, he refers to the many instances when the owner of a public accommodation -- a company that provide goods or services to the general public -- has rejected a same-sex couple as a potential customer. In all the cases that we have observed, the owner(s) is a conservative Christian who does not want to be associated in any way with a same-sex wedding. Examples that we have seen to date have been wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, renters of wedding or reception venues, and stores that sell wedding dresses.

He continues:

2. "A second method of silencing the religious dissenting voices is a tactic frequently used by courts by stating either that there is 'no rational basis' for laws defining marriage [restricted to unions] between a man and a woman or that the sole purpose of such laws is to 'demean' gays and lesbians."

He gave as one example the lawsuit United States v. Windsor in which the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The federal Justice Department's brief to the Justices asserted that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The brief says in part:

"The official legislative record makes plain that DOMA Section 3 was motivated in large part by animus toward gay and lesbian individuals and their intimate relationships. ... Congress identified no other interest that is materially advanced by Section 3." 7

Worley commented:

"This impacts religious freedom because if, in enacting DOMA, Congress had a purpose to injure and demean same-sex couples, then by extension any person who believes in man-woman marriage has this purpose as well."

That is, if Congress was motivated by a desire to discriminate against the LGBT community, that every other person or group who favors restricting marriage to one woman and one man must be similarly motivated by animus.

Webmaster's note [Bias alert]:

I disagree with this assertion. Most of the statements made by individuals and groups in favor of restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples that I have seen are based on their author's beliefs concerning biblical passages that discuss same-gender sexual behavior and other passages that define marriage as between one man and one, two, or more women.

Finally, he criticized the response by the Justices of the court in the majority opinion of "Windsor" who simply stated that testimony on behalf of the defendants lacked "any legitimate purpose" without having specifying details.

Worley writes:

3. "The third attack is thus far a social silencing of pro-[opposite-sex] marriage speech. ... If one is condemned for a belief in the public square, and is told that the belief is hate speech, it is a small step to say that the speech itself should go away."

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The term "religious freedom" has two very different meanings:

His article explains the point of view of many social and religious conservatives concerning what they believe is a threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex marriage. However, it lumps together two very different meanings of the term "religious freedom:"

  • Religious freedom once exclusively meant the freedom of religious writing and speech, of religious assembly, of religious proselytizing, and of freely changing one's religion.

However, Worley's article refers to the new meaning of "religious freedom" -- one that is rapidly growing in popularity:

This new "religious freedom to discriminate" has two main results:

  • One is receiving a lot of attention in the press. Perhaps a dozen for-profit businesses across the U.S. who provide goods and services to the wedding "industry" have refusing to serve potential customers who are same-sex couples organizing their weddings. The former have generally been wedding cake bakers, wedding organizers, wedding photographers, renters of wedding and reception venues, etc. They are often called "public accommodations" within city and/or state human rights legislation. Sometimes engaged same-sex couples complain of having been discriminated against to human rights tribunals. The retail outlets are often found guilty and fined. Some human rights ordinances or statutes have provision for jail sentences, but we have never seen a case where a store owner has been imprisoned.

  • The other result of the "freedom to discriminate" has received essentially no publicity. It is the violation by retail outlets of the "Ethic of Reciprocity." The "ethic" is commonly called the "Golden Rule:" -- for people to treat others as they would wish to be treated in return. It is found in essentially all major religions in the world and in many secular ethical systems. Among early Christian writings, Jesus is recorded as instructing Christians to follow the Golden Rule, saying:
    • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

    • "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

    • "...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. This is one of about 40 gospels that circulated among the early Christian movement, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. the New Testament).

There are, of course, no penalties in law for violating the Golden Rule. However, all of the instances of the religious freedom to discriminate have involved Christian owners who find themselves in a conflict between their interpretation of the approximately six "clobber" passages that may refer to same-gender sexual behavior, and the importance for them to follow the Golden Rule.

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This topic continues with Part 2 which lists some of the
readers' responses to Michael Terrance Worley's article.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Michael Worley, "My view: Same-sex marriage decisions and 3 attacks on religious freedom," Deseret News, 2014-JAN-12, at:
  2. Dirk Johnson, "Trials for Parents Who Chose Faith Over Medicine,"  New York Times, 2009-JAN-20, at:
  3. Ken Ham, "Religious freedom under attack ... again," Answers in Genesis, 2014-OCT-24, at:
  4. Michael Worley, "My view: Same-sex marriage decisions and 3 attacks on religious freedom," Deseret News, Deseret News, 2014-JAN-12, at:
  5. "About the foundation," Marriage Law Foundation, undated, at:
  6. "Our mission," The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty," 2015, at:

Site navigation:

Home > Religious freedom > here

or Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > here

or Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > here

or Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > here

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2015-JAN-26
Latest update: 2015-JAN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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