“Religious liberty was meant to be a shield, not a sword,” says Jay Michaelson, author of PRA’s Redefining Religious Liberty report (pdf). “Religious liberty has become a code word, kind of like family values.”
Michaelson, appearing last week on HuffPost Live, explained that many groups enjoying “religious liberty exemptions,” for instance allowing Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions or contraception, receive a majority of their funding from the federal government. Current lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s required contraception coverage for employee insurance, such as the Hobby Lobby suit brought by the Becket Fund, want an expansion of these religious exemptions to corporations.
From the opposition, Charles LiMandri, President and Chief Counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF)–defense counsel for ex-gay therapy organization Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH)–parroted misleading right-wing rhetoric about the “targeting of Christians.” He gave an agitated denial when Michaelson pointed out that these are “the same arguments used in the 70s and 80s around racial discrimination.” Michaelson warned that, as anti-LGBTQ Christian Right organizations lose on same-sex marriage, they are inserting religious exemptions to render marriage equality “effectively meaningless…basically separate but unequal.”
Beth Corbin, National Field Director at Americans United for Separation of Church; Will McGuinness, HuffPost College Senior Editor; and Ed Krayewski, Associate Editor for Reason 24/7 News also participated in the conversation. If you missed the livestream, watch the video below for more discussion of the conservative Christian campaign for the right to discriminate: