Discrimination what ONA churches can do

Discrimination based on ‘religious freedom’: latest challenge for ONA churches

Marriage equality may soon be legal in every state. But as we approach this goal, the movement that opposes equal protection for LGBT Americans under the law has shifted to a new tactic: laws that will legalize discrimination against LGBT citizens in the name of “religious freedom.”

This is “Plan B” for the opposition to marriage equality. Advocating as people of faith against laws that misuse religious freedom as a cover for discrimination will be a priority for the Open and Affirming movement in the coming two years.

While the language is not always the same, the proposed laws (often called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts”) usually allow

  1. owners of private businesses, including restaurants, to refuse service to LGBT customers, including same-sex couples.
  2. landlords to refuse to lease apartments or homes to LGBT tenants, including same-sex couples.

Some proposed laws even allow public employees—for example, county clerks and probate judges—to refuse to issue marriage licenses even in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

The Coalition and the United Church of Christ value religious freedom. It’s one cornerstone of constitutional liberty in the United States. And of course we respect the right of churches and other faith communities to uphold their traditional teachings about marriage. No one is suggesting that churches opposed on principle to marriage equality should be pressured to recognize same-sex marriages.

But another cornerstone of our liberty is the principle of “equal protection under the law.” The right not to be refused service in government offices and private businesses is one that should apply to all Americans equally. So is the right to rent or own a home regardless of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, and gender or gender identity.

Marriage equality and laws that protect the equal rights of LGBT citizens are based on a core value of American society: that everyone should be treated equally and fairly.

At General Synod in Cleveland this June, the Coalition will join with UCC congregations across the country to advocate for a resolution opposing a “religious right to discriminate.” And you can learn more about these laws, and how you can help, at the Coalition’s National ONA Gathering right before Synod. We’ll be ready to circulate the proposed text in March. If your congregation or other setting is interested in joining the Coalition as a cosponsor, please contact Rod Mundy at ona@openandaffirming.org for more information, and ask how you and your congregation can help.

Please use the resources on this page to learn more.