First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… the end of religious liberty? That’s what plenty of faith-based groups are worried about, now that the Supreme Court is weeks away from potentially writing the epilogue to the First Amendment rights of millions of religious Americans. In the quote heard ’round the world from the Supreme Court arguments on same-sex “marriage,” the President’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli confirmed everyone’s worst fears — that the government would use a liberal ruling as a weapon to use against Christians.
Asked if religious schools could lose their tax-exempt status for holding a natural view of marriage, Verrilli was surprisingly candid. “…[I]t’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is going to be an issue.” If the Court invents a constitutional reason to redefine marriage, one bad decision could trigger dozens more. Charitable statuses, tax benefits, government contracts, accreditation, professional licenses, grants, social service programs, and more could fall like dominos if the justices err.
As time ticks down to judgment day, faith leaders are starting to see the writing on the IRS wall. Worried about “far-reaching implications,” more than 70 educators from religiously-affiliated schools are sounding the alarm to Congress that the marriage ruling could threaten the more than 30,000 faith-based schools and universities across America. In an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), they ask for a legislative shield from the Obama administration’s hostility — should the Court topple tradition.
Today, a handful of those educators joined FRC and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) for a press conference to express their deep concerns about the storms brewing for freedom. “If the government could revoke the tax-exempt status of such schools, what is to prevent other forms of government discrimination such as revoking grants or contracts or funding for services unrelated to marriage?” they write. “It is out of concern that schools adhering to traditional religious and moral values could lose tax-exempt status that we urge support for the Government Non-Discrimination Act, which would ensure that the federal government cannot discriminate or take action against private entities because they act in accordance with a moral or religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
The measure, which was filed in the 113th Congress, is set to be reintroduced in the 114th with help from First Amendment champions like Senator Lee. If the Obama administration believes, as its head of Equal Opportunity Commission does — that sexual license trumps religious liberty — then America is in for an even rockier road. As our own Travis Weber said outside of the Capitol earlier today, “Over the past year, the Obama administration has made clear it will use any possible method — whether contracting, grants, school funding, and now tax exempt status — to establish and enforce its view of morality on the private religious sphere by redefining marriage. If the court [mandates] it as a constitutional right, the impact will be significant. Religious organizations must be left free to determine their own beliefs, which cannot be co-opted by the state.”
Unfortunately for Christians, education is just one area that would be affected by SCOTUS’s distortion of the Constitution. To find out what’s at risk in your family — and what to do about it — tune in to a special event next week, June 9 at noon, “Marriage and Civil Rights: How to Respond Rightly If the Court Gets It Wrong.” With an all-star cast, we’ll help prepare you for the days and months ahead.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.