Even as religious organizations that promote traditional marriage face increasing legal risks, as institutions they likely enjoy greater legal rights to promote their approach to marriage than do their individual members.
It is religious people whose individual rights of conscience are increasingly coming into conflict with rights asserted by gays and lesbians. And not because of anti-homosexual bigotry. In the instances of conflict reported by Israelsen-Hartley, efforts were extended to provide accommodation or referral to services readily available elsewhere. Instead of animosity toward gays or lesbians, these religious individuals feel compelled by conscience to honor what they understand to be God's core moral teaching about marriage being a sacred union of a man and woman exclusively committed to one another.
Nonetheless, some are finding themselves facing civil liability, difficulty obtaining official licensure or being dismissed from jobs because they express or act in accord with their conscience.
As some states move away from a culture and definition of marriage that has been closely associated with human flourishing, lawmakers should, at the very least, craft thoughtful exemptions that will protect the rights of conscience, not just of clergy and institutions, but of religious individuals who are trying to adhere to an ethical system of belief that they believe will bring them greater happiness and holiness.
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