A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a Mississippi law that protects the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that gender is determined at birth.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court not only reversed an injunction imposed by a lower court – preventing the implementation of the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act – it went further and simply dismissed the case.
The ruling found that the individuals and homosexual advocacy organizations who challenged the law didn’t have standing to bring their claims.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are part of the legal team representing Gov. Phil Bryant in the lawsuits, Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.
ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot reacted to the ruling.
“Good laws like Mississippi’s protect freedom and harm no one. The court did the right thing in finding that those who have challenged this law haven’t been harmed and, therefore, can’t try to take the law down,” he said.
Theriot explained that the sole purpose of the law is “to ensure that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union.”
“Those who filed suit have not and will not be harmed but want to restrict freedom and impose their beliefs on others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one,” he said.
The organization explained state House Bill 1523 “protects citizens, public servants, businesses, and religious institutions from government reprisal for operating publicly according to their belief that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.”
The governor signed the bill into law in April 2016, but a federal district court stopped its enforcement shortly thereafter.
AP reported lawyers for the same-sex promoters challenging the law say they will ask the full 5th Circuit to review the decision, or they will go to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a decision from U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves that the law treats homosexuals unequally.
It was Reeves’ decision that the 5th Circuit panel unanimously overturned.
The appeals court found that since “the plaintiffs do not have standing, we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal.
“Because the challengers have failed to provide sufficient evidence of an injury-in-fact from HB 1523 … they have not made a clear showing of standing.”
Judges Catharina Haynes, Jennifer Elrod and Jerry E. Smith signed the ruling.
“Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality. We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact … but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”
The law provides that those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman, people should not have sex outside such marriages, and a person’s gender is set at birth cannot be persecuted by the government for acting on these beliefs.
For example, a business owner who declines to promote same-sex weddings would be protected. The law directly defeats many of the agenda points homosexuals cling to: it says religious organizations are protected when they make decisions regarding employment, housing, the placement of children in foster or adoptive homes, or the solemnization of marriage basd on their beliefs. Also parents are protected if they raise foster or adoptive children according to their beliefs. And doctors and mental heatlh counselors cannot be compelled to provide services in violation of their beliefs. Businesses are protected if they decline to provide services on the basis of their faith.
Reeves had claimed the law “does not honor (this country’s) tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens,” but the appeals court didn’t even get far enough into the dispute to rule on merits.
It simply found the plaintiffs had no standing, so there was no case.
It was the second such setback in recent weeks for “gay” activists who want to force Christians to support their agenda. An appeal would be no surprise since the ruling as it stands could be used to undermine homosexual activism in other cases.
WND reported earlier this month on a case brought against a T-shirt maker by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission in Kentucky.
The group appealed to the state’s Supreme Court a recent appeals court decision that business owners must serve all people equally but don’t have to treat all messages equally.
It was a T-shirt printer, Blaine Adamson, who, with his company Hands On Originals, was sued by the local Human Rights Commission for refusing to promote “gay” rights.
WND reported in May when the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a Fayette Circuit Court decision that sided with Adamson, saying he could not be forced, in violation of his faith, to print messages demanded by “gay” customers.
The Alliance Defending Freedom contends the high court should leave the decision alone.
“Americans should always have the freedom to say no when asked to express ideas that violate their conscience. Blaine is willing to serve all people, but he cannot print all messages. The two lower courts properly affirmed that Blaine can’t be forced to print words and logos that express ideas in conflict with his faith. The Kentucky Supreme Court should leave those decisions in place,” said Senior Counsel Jim Campbell.
A number of court rulings over the past few years have found that a “gay” activist’s right to have his or her lifestyle affirmed and promoted trumps the U.S. Constitution’s protections for religious liberty.
That’s essentially what a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, including two justices who had publicly advocated for same-sex “marriage” while the case was underway, found in the Obergefell decision, which created a right to same-sex “marriage.”
In the T-shirt case, Adamson declined to promote homosexuality, and the Human Rights Commission ordered he “must print messages that conflict with his faith when customers ask him to do so.”
While the decision so far has affected only the T-shirt case, the simple logic utilized by the court could ripple across the country in other cases, such as in Colorado, where state officials ordered a baker and his staff to undergo re-training for refusing to promote homosexuality.
The lower court’s ruling in Kentucky said: “Nothing of record demonstrates HOO, through Adamson, refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question had a specific sexual orientation or gender identity. Adamson testified he never learned of or asked about the sexual orientation or gender identity of of Don Lowe, the only representative of GLSO with whom he spoke regarding the T-shirts.
“Don Lowe testified he never told Adamson anything regarding his sexual orientation or gender identity. The GLSO itself also has no sexual orientation or gender identity: it is a gender-neutral organization that functions as a support network and advocate for individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered,” the court found.
“Also, nothing of record demonstrates HOO, through Adamson, refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question was engaging in an activity or conduct exclusively or predominantly by a protected class of people.”
The ruling said: “The ‘service’ HOO offers is the promotion of messages. The ‘conduct’ HOO chose not to promote was pure speech. There is no contention that HOO is a public forum in addition to a public accommodation. Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits HOO, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship.”
The case developed in 2014 when the commission ruled against Adamson, who was defended by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Adamson, at the time of the request in 2012, had offered to find the customer another printer to do the shirts, and the “gay” organization eventually got them for free.
But the organization filed a complaint against Adamson anyway.
Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer wrote the majority opinion that Adamson did not unlawfully discriminate.
Judge Debra Hemgree Lambert wrote a concurrence, finding the company is protected under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Statute.
“We commend the court’s ruling, which upholds the First Amendment’s promise that everyone, including businesses and their owners, can decide for themselves the ideas and beliefs that they choose to express,” said Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney PLLC of Lexington.
See a video describing the issues in the case:
Religion ‘infringes’ on civil rights
Under former President Obama, a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights lamented that the Constitution limits governmental burdens on religion.
The agency’s report last year, when Obama only had a few months left in the White House, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” gets immediately to the point.
On the first of 306 pages, the “letter of transmittal” to Obama states, “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”
It says the fault lies with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which “constricts the ability of government actors to curtail private citizens’ rights to the protections of nondiscrimination laws and policies.”
“Although the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act … limit the ability of government actors to impede individuals from practicing their religious beliefs, religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis,” states the letter.
Then the commission got to what it really wants, stating federal legislation “should be considered to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.”
“States with RFRA-style laws should amend those statutes to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions. States with laws modeled after RFRA must guarantee that those statutes do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights with status-based discrimination,” the Obama agenda claimed.