Do Religious Convictions Trump Government Rules?
On Faith Blog-The Washington Post


Each week a question is posed at The Washington Post’s On Faith blog moderated by Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham concerning critical religious issues.  Last week the question was particularly compelling and important as it asks this:

In response to the new gay marriage law in Washington, Catholic Charities closed its adoption and foster care programs and cut spousal benefits to future employees — to avoid providing services to homosexual couples.

If a church or other religious charity receives government funding, should it follow all government rules, including those against discrimination based on sexual orientation? Or should government exempt such organizations from requirements that violate particular religious beliefs?

Among respondents was Michael Otterson, head of worldwide public affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who answered the question and then expanded it to explore a deeper issue: 

He said:

My own Church doesn’t ask for, or accept, government funding, so I’m deferring to other churches to defend that ground.

But let’s drill down into the question more deeply.

There is a long history in the law of exempting religious organizations from burdensome regulations that otherwise govern commercial enterprises. Courts have long recognized that government must tread very lightly before imposing regulations on religious organizations.

As a matter of principle, the use of anti-discrimination laws to force religious organizations to accept persons or adopt practices in violation of their religious beliefs, or alter their ways of life, service, worship or practices, is myopic. Such measures present a fundamental threat to religious liberty and the rights of conscience.


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