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July 3, 2023

Religious Liberty Wins Again and Again

The Supreme Court has two new decisions to add to its dossier of consistent victories for the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States has made a number of momentous decisions since Joe Biden became president. The largest two are the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the overturning of affirmative action.

Though it’s not as publicized, the Supreme Court has also continued to uphold our religious liberty as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Groff v. DeJoy was the case of Gerald Groff, a postal worker and a Christian. On Sundays, Christians observe the Sabbath (the day of rest) and most attend church. Groff and his lawyer argued that he should be allowed, as a religious person, to get an exemption from delivering on Sundays.

In a unanimous decision, the justices upheld Groff’s religious freedom. The nine justices also overturned a 50-year-old ruling that allows employers to overrule an employee’s religious exemption if it causes the business undue hardship. This was a big victory for religious Americans.

The other religious liberty decision that came down last week dealt with a graphic designer, Lorie Smith, who designs wedding websites. Smith, who is also a Christian, sued the state of Colorado for its anti-discrimination law that did not allow Smith the right or ability to refuse to use her gifts and talents as a graphic designer to endorse a same-sex couple. Christians believe that marriage is ordained by God between one man and one woman. Being forced to make a wedding website for any other type of “marriage” would violate not only the biblical teachings of the church but also Smith’s own conscience.

Justice Neil Gorsuch put it best in his writing of the majority opinion. He wrote: “In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance. But, as this Court has long held, the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong.”

It was a 6-3 vote, with the justices sticking to party lines in their decision — originalists in favor of upholding Smith’s religious freedom, and constructionists in favor of denying it. Justice Gorsuch concluded: “Tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Because Colorado seeks to deny that promise, the judgment is reversed.”

It is particularly satisfying that Gorsuch used the word “tolerance” in this defense of religious freedom because “tolerance” is a favorite cudgel of leftists to coerce Americans into submitting to their worldview. This is not the first time Gorsuch has employed the word in this way. In another 6-3 decision last summer in a case that dealt with a praying high school football coach, the justices ruled that coach Joe Kennedy’s First Amendment rights of free speech and religious freedom were violated by the school district that fired him for praying on the 50-yard line after each football game. Gorsuch also wrote the majority opinion in that case and said, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

In the United States, the new religions of gender ideology, critical race theory, environmentalism, new age/neopaganism, and even atheism are waging a war on the rest of the country. They want to enforce and direct their own views on all Americans in the name of “tolerance,” “equity,” and “secularism.” These practitioners use censorship, threats, and outright violence to get their way. But our country was a haven for those Pilgrims seeking religious freedom, and that legacy was written into the Constitution to ensure that right. It is very exciting to see consistent victories for the First Amendment’s promise of religious liberty.

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