Kansas Gov. Brownback Issues Executive Order Protecting Religious Freedom of Clergy on Same-Sex Marriage Objections

Photo: AP/Armando Franca

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas is acting to protect clergy and religious organizations from punishment for refusing to recognize or provide services for same-sex marriages.

He’s issued an executive order, titled “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom,” that states:

[T]he protection of religious liberty from government infringement is a constitutional and fundamental state interest, and government is obligated to take measures that advance this interest by preventing government interference with religious exercise in a way that complements the protections mandated by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution…

The order, which also complements protections offered in the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution, prohibits the state from taking any discriminatory action against “individual clergy or religious leader,” or any “religious organization” that objects to a marriage that conflicts with its religious beliefs or moral conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

“We have a duty to govern and to govern in accordance with the Constitution as it has been determined by the Supreme Court decision,” said Brownback in a statement. “We also recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected.”

“The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right,” he added. “Today’s Executive Order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.”

“While we disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” the governor said.

According to the Washington Post, militant LGBT groups have condemned Brownback’s executive order.

“Having nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with enabling discrimination, this executive order is divisive, unnecessary, and sends the wrong message,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign.

She reportedly referred to the idea that clergy could be forced to participate in same-sex marriages as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized them nationwide as false rumors.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, announced in an op-ed in the WaPo that it “can no longer support” the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because “it is now often used as a sword to discriminate against women, gay and transgender people…”

“Religious liberty doesn’t mean the right to discriminate or to impose one’s views on others,” wrote Louise Melling of the ACLU.

Melling views situations in which those who invoke the federal RFRA to protect their free exercise of faith as “abuses” if it means same-sex marriage and abortion are not accepted.


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