Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ discrimination points to faith leaders' divide over gay rights
Daniel Atwood grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community and never had a Jewish LGBTQ person to look up to. He waited a long time for the moment when he would be ordained a rabbi.
After Atwood completed his schooling at New York's Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 2019, he was denied ordination when the school found that he was engaged to a man. Months later, Atwood was ordained the world's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem.
"In many communities, queer people are viewed as" it's okay to be here, but it's not the ideal way to live, "said Atwood. "It is seen as a personal challenge, something that I should struggle with, something that I should be sad about. However, this is not my attitude towards life."
Atwood is one of many progressive faith leaders who celebrated the Supreme Court's historic ruling last week banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace. Other religious leaders who oppose LGBTQ rights questioned the decision, particularly whether it applies to religious institutions that are often protected by freedom of speech under the First Amendment. The split is unfolding as more and more religious Americans support the rights of LGBTQ, even if their faith leaders denounce such changes.
On October 8, 2019, while the Supreme Court hears arguments about gender discrimination in the workplace, protesters gather outside.
The court's decision prohibits employers from firing someone for their sexual orientation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Franklin Graham, chairman of the Samaritan Wallet, an influential Evangelical relief group and evangelist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said the ruling could violate the rights of religious groups opposed to LGBTQ rights.
"It's more than just protecting gay people," Graham said of the verdict. "I don't think gay people should be discriminated against, but at the same time Christians should not be discriminated against. We should be free to exercise our beliefs and beliefs and share what we believe in."
Many conservative Christians believe that God made man and woman together and that LGBTQ sex is a sin, Graham said. He asked the Christians to pray about their beliefs and to contact the legislature about their rejection of the Supreme Court decision.
In the judgment, Judge Neil Gorsuch, a conservative who was brought to justice by President Donald Trump, wrote that the very decision that will affect religious freedom is "questions for future cases." According to the 1993 Federal Law on the Restoration of Religious Freedom, the government is prohibited from "placing a significant burden on a person's practice of religion".
The Supreme Court is expected to look more closely at LGBTQ rights and the protection of religious freedom in its next term starting in October. Earlier this year, the court agreed to a Fulton hearing against City of Philadelphia on whether faith-based child relief organizations can reject LGBTQ families and others who are considered to be acting against their religious beliefs.
The court's recent records of LGBTQ are inconsistent. The majority of judges decided in 2015 that all states must recognize and grant same-sex marriages. However, in 2019, a majority ruled that the Trump administration could prevent most transgender people from serving in the military, while the lower courts examined cases where politics was questioned. Six of the Supreme Court judges are Catholic and the other three are Jewish.
In his opposition to workplace discrimination, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito warned that the verdict "will jeopardize freedom of religion, freedom of expression, privacy and security".
Many U.S. religious groups have long spoken out against LGBTQ civil rights, but as political beliefs have evolved and gay Americans have fought for the right to be their true selves, many fellow believers have changed their minds.
In 2014, 62% of Americans said LGBTQ Americans should be accepted, compared to 50% of Americans who said this in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center.
Among religious Americans, 81% of Jews and 70% of Catholics said that LGBTQ people should be accepted. Meanwhile, 53% of Protestant Protestants surveyed said that LGBTQ rights should be discouraged.
Gay rights lawyers celebrated before the Supreme Court after the judges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
The US conference of the President and Archbishop of the Catholic Bishops, José Horacio Gómez, released a statement last week saying he was deeply concerned about the Supreme Court's decision to redefine the legal meaning of "sex" and called it an injustice that will affect all aspects of American life.
"By eliminating the beautiful differences and complementary relationships between men and women, we are ignoring the glory of God's creation and harming the human family, the first building block of society," he said, adding, "It is not necessary to our neighbors to protect against unjustified discrimination redefine human nature. "
Religious higher education institutions, including the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, the Catholic University of America and Brigham Young University in Utah, submitted an Amicus letter in the case where they argued that extending the protection of civil rights to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity "has a significant and far-reaching impact on belief-based universities."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission, said the ruling will "have a seismic impact on religious freedom and potentially trigger years of litigation and litigation over what it means for religious organizations, for example." with religious beliefs about the importance of sex and sexuality. "
Other religious leaders praised the verdict.
Most Rev. George Lucey, presiding bishop of the American National Catholic Church, an independent institution founded by former Catholic members, said Christianity preaches love for others and therefore discrimination against LGBTQ Americans should not be tolerated.
"I don't think God cares who we love," said Lucey. "I think God only cares that we all love."
Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of the National Episcopal Church, who, along with more than 720 interfaith leaders who assisted plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, signed a friend of the court letter, celebrated the verdict in a Facebook post.
"As Christians, we have a special responsibility to express ourselves because attempts to deny LGBTQ people their dignity and humanity as children of God are made too often in the name of God," said Jennings. "This type of fear is not the type of Jesus Christ that teaches us to drive out fear."
A person holds a rainbow flag during the NYC Pride Parade in New York on June 26, 2016.
Danya Ruttenberg, a writer who works as a rabbi and educator at the Universities of Tufts and Northwestern in Massachusetts, said this was just the beginning of a change. She said that precautions should be taken to prevent homophobia, transphobia and bigotry from occurring in religious communities.
"I am grateful that this judgment offers more protection in the workplace to people who have been created according to the divine image," said Ruttenberg. "But it's not absolute protection. It would be so easy to say that someone doesn't fit into the work culture."
Atwood, the Orthodox rabbi, said he was happy that LGBTQ people are now protected in the workplace.
"Nobody has to do something they don't want to," said Atwood. "But in the United States that support civil rights, you have to be open to everyone if you are open to business."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: The Supreme Court's LGBTQ discrimination case divides faith leaders
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