New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal was quick to criticize LDS Church leaders for using "fake 'war on religion' speak" in the Church's rare news conference held Tuesday about religious liberty and support for LGBT nondiscrimination laws.
Rosenthal dismissed the Church's view that religious liberties should be protected in nondiscrimination ordinances along side protections that ensure fair access to housing and employment for LGBT people.
Rosenthal contends that religious freedoms are protected by the Bill of Rights. "We already have that," he wrote. But Rosenthal fails to address any of the mounting stack of stories of religious Americans whose rights have not been clearly protected by existing laws, including The Bill of Rights.
Below is a sampling of nine recent cases in which Americans' rights of conscience and religious liberty were in question or on trial. It's true that religious liberty may not be fighting an all out war, but it's clear that "there is an absolutist streak among some secular civil-rights advocates" as The Atlantic's Jonathan Rauch argued last July. As Rauch asserts, such attitudes have led some to flippantly dismiss "the unique role religion plays in American life and the unique protections it enjoys under the First Amendment."
California state judges barred from being Boy Scouts members.
The California Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 23 that state judges could not belong to the Boy Scouts of America because of the group's stance to not allow gay leaders to be troop leaders. In February 2014 the court's ethics advisory committee recommended to ban Boy Scout membership. Judges have until Jan. 21, 2016, to comply.
Fire chief fired for publishing his religious views on homosexuality.
Kevin Cochran, a six-year fire chief in the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, was fired on Jan. 6 by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for the critical views he expressed about homosexuality in his book, "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" Cochran told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his firing showed "there are grave consequences for publicly expressing my faith and having the audacity to state that sex was created for procreation and should be kept within the bonds of holy matrimony."
Houston subpoenas pastors' sermons in battle over human rights ordinance.
Last year, five pastors from Houston had their sermons, emails and other communications subpoenaed for an investigation by the city of Houston which claimed the communications allegedly encouraged support for a referendum to overturn the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. What followed was a firestorm from religious conservatives. On Oct. 29, 2014, Houston mayor Annise Parker asked that the city of Houston rescind the subpoenas.
Two Christian ministers have to sue their city in order to preserve their right to perform only traditional marriages.
Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two ordained Pentecostal ministers, have operated the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel since 1989. But on Oct. 7, 2014, Idaho legalized same-sex marriage, and the Knapps were caught in the crossfire of the city attorney and their religious rights. After Idaho legalized same-sex marriage, the Knapps began refusing requests to perform same-sex marriages, but they preemptively filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against the city of Coeur d'Alene. The city of Coeur d'Alene has since said that the chapel owners don't have to perform same-sex marriages.
American Atheists sue to tear down 9/11 memorial cross.
American Atheists filed a suit in 2012 claiming the 9/11 memorial cross, a cross-shaped beam found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, was unconstitutional. But in July of 2014, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it would be allowed to stay, explaining in the court's decision that the museum display stands for more than Christian belief.
Christian baker ordered to make wedding cakes for same-sex weddings.
A minute long conversation between Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, a couple looking to buy a wedding cake for their upcoming ceremony, turned into a tense religious freedom case. Phillips refused to bake a cake for the couple's ceremony but in future months would be forced by a judge to make the cake or pay a fine. Phillips plans on appealing the decision. "The heart of the issue is: Am I going to obey and serve what I believe the Bible is teaching?" Phillips told Nicholas Riccardi.
Catholic health professional in conflict between conscience and career.
On a Sunday morning in May 2009, Cathy DeCarlo arrived at Mt. Sinai Hospital ready for another day of work as a surgical nurse. On this particular morning, DeCarlo, an observant Catholic, was ordered to assist in an abortion even though she told the hospital before she was hired she would not help perform abortions. Despite her protests, DeCarlo was compelled to assist with the procedure. She worried about the financial repercussions of losing her job. DeCarlo suffered insomnia and nightmares following the surgery. In February 2013, Mt. Sinai Hospital added additional policies and procedures to ensure that medical personnel are not forced to participate in abortions against their wishes.
Pharmacists sue for right to refuse to sell contraceptives.
Ralph's Thriftway in Olympia, Washington, and two other licensed pharmacists sued for their rights to not be forced to sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives. The pharmacists argued that selling these drugs would violate their religious beliefs because they "can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, an act they equate with taking human life," according to Gene Johnson. A federal judge ruled in favor of the pharmacists in 2012.
Christian photographer fined for refusing to shoot gay couple's commitment ceremony.
In 2006 Elaine Huguenin, who owns Elane Photography with her husband and is the business's principal photographer, refused to photograph a gay couple's ceremony because it violated her religious beliefs. She was forced to pay almost $7,000 for declining to photograph the ceremony because it violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law.