Sunday, July 20, 2014

The 3 - July 20, 2014

This week in my week-in-review feature, "The 3," a Christian college in Massachusetts has encountered some retaliation because of its president's stand on Biblical principles.  Also, a brazen attempt to take legislative action against the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision occurred in the U.S. Senate this week. And, there was more court action regarding state marriage amendments this week.

3 - Christian college faces ramifications for upholding Biblical standards

A Christian college is under fire because its President signed a letter requesting a religious exemption from a proposed new policy to be implemented by President Obama that would prohibit "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation. reports that Kimberley Driscoll, mayor of Salem, MA, recently sent a letter to Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, advising that the school could no longer manage the Old Town Hall because it opposes sexual activities between those of the same gender.

She stated that her main concern was over the college’s behavioral standards policy, which prohibits staff and students from engaging in homosexual behavior. The policy also forbids fornication, drunkenness, profanity, blasphemy, lying and other behaviors that are inconsistent with Biblical principles.

She said that Gordon College’s policies “fly in the face” of Salem’s non-discrimination law, which bars the city from working with entities that “discriminate” against others.

She told reporters recently that she made the decision to cancel the contract, which was to have expired later this year, when she discovered that Lindsay was among those who signed that letter to Mr. Obama.
In an online message to Gordon College students and staff, Lindsay explained that, “My sole intention in signing this letter was to affirm the College’s support of the underlying issue of religious liberty, including the right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith, and which we all have chosen to embrace as members of the Gordon community...”

According to CitizenLink, without an exemption, Gordon College — and other Christian colleges — could lose federal funding, student financial aid and accreditation. CitizenLink has initiated a petition drive in order that people can show support for President Lindsey and the Biblical principles which the college is attempting to uphold.

2 - Bill to reverse Hobby Lobby decision fails to advance in Senate

This past week, the U.S. Senate, moving with uncharacteristic swiftness, voted on a bill that, if it had passed there and been approved by the House, which would have been highly unlikely, would have essentially overruled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), according to a report on the WORLD News Group website.  RFRA is the law the Supreme Court cited when it ruled the federal government cannot force a family-owned business to provide contraceptive coverage that goes against its religious beliefs.   The bill also would have required employers to cover all forms of contraception and other healthcare mandated in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of conscience objections.

The Senate on Wednesday afternoon fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, in a 56-43 vote on bringing the measure to the floor. Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who voted against moving the measure forward, said, “The federal government doesn’t have the right to force Americans to violate their faith...The bill put forward by Senate Democrats is nothing more than a political charade, designed to falsely suggest to the American people that employers can deny their employees access to birth control.”  3 Republicans joined 51 Democrats and 2 Independents in voting for the bill.

WORLD reports that Republicans have introduced legislation that would “clarify” the high court’s decision, noting it didn’t prevent anyone from accessing any kind of birth control, including abortifacient drugs.

As the WORLD article states, House Republicans have excoriated Senate Democrats for not moving faster to take up legislation, but in this case, the Senate showed it is capable of moving at remarkable speed. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties on June 30, Senators Patty Murray or Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado unveiled their legislative response on July 9. Only one week, later the Senate voted on cloture, or ending debate.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is quoted as saying that lawmakers have much more pressing issues they should be focused on: “The world is falling apart, along with the U.S. economy, and yet Senate Democratic leaders think the future of the free world hinges on employers being forced—under the threat of crippling fines—to provide drugs that have the potential to kill an unborn child.”

1 - Court action on marriage amendments continues

More action was taken this week by courts on state amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.   The Alliance Defending Freedom reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued a 2-1 decision Friday in Bishop v. Smith to strike down Oklahoma’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

ADF Senior Counsel Byron Babione is quoted as saying, "“Every child deserves a mom and a dad, and the people of Oklahoma confirmed that at the ballot box when they approved a constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as a man-woman union. In his dissent, Judge Kelly correctly noted that ‘any change in the definition of marriage rightly belongs to the people of Oklahoma, not a federal court.’" He goes on to say that, "Ultimately, the question whether the people are free to affirm marriage as a man-woman union will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the high court remains consistent with what it held in its Windsor decision, the states will ultimately be free to preserve man-woman marriage should they choose to do so.”

As I reported last week, a state court judge in Colorado made the brash move of ruling that state's marriage amendment unconstitutional.   This week, a county judge in Florida did the same.  The Florida Family Policy Council reports that Monroe Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia ruled that Florida's marriage amendment was unconstitutional.  Furthermore, he did not stay his action pending appeal.   Same-sex couples who wish could be granted marriage licenses as soon as this Tuesday, July 22nd.

Council President John Stemberger is quoted as saying,
Today’s ruling by Judge Garcia, in the Florida Keys, is a stunning act of legal arrogance and raw judicial activism. With one stoke of a pen, a mere trial judge has attempted to overthrow an act of direct democracy by five million Floridians who defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Judge Garcia has ignored the constitution, ignored the will of the people, and has asserted his own personal views over the rule of law. This ruling is precisely what voters were trying to prevent when they overwhelmingly defined marriage in the Florida Constitution in 2008 by a 62% vote. Judge Garcia’s reliance on the Windsor decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 is wrong sided and completely misplaced. Windsor was a state’s rights decision and affirmed that each state has the right to define marriage. Instead of relying on the constitution, Garcia joined the judicial stampede of other lower federal judges who have tried to override marriage laws based on no precedent other than their own political agendas.
So, from the Federal appeals level to the local level, judges are assuming this posture.   As Babione pointed out, the Windsor decision left questions of marriage legality to the states.   So, it would seem that the will of the majority, as expressed in the passage of these amendments, would be upheld.   It will be interesting to see when and if one or more of these cases will reach the high court, which passed on its opportunity to provide clarity by not issuing a definitive ruling in the Proposition 8 case out of California.

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