Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Kids Aren't Alright

In the great state of Idaho, there has been a reoccurring issue in which families are looking to receive a very specific religious exemption from prenatal and other western health care services for their infants, and resultantly the babies are dying because they are not being treated in a way that allows them to become healthy individuals.  This is a multifaceted issue in nature, due to the fact that not only are infantile children dying on the state’s watch, but there also seems to be many quarrels regarding the exemption and its impact on all religions. The exemption is in the name of faith healing, and since 2012 alone, there has been two easily preventable deaths of young children due to their familial ties to the faith healing exemption.  The state has the responsibility to protect its citizens and has even more of a responsibility to protect its children, however the state is also obliged to respect the free exercise rights of the parties involved.
In 2011, a couple was imprisoned for six years for manslaughter in response to the negligent act of not supplying their premature child any medical support.  In response to the consistent happenings of premature deaths, child advocates have attempted to get legislatures to fine-tune and rework the current written law.  There seems to be a pattern of religious tolerance and maybe even promotion in Idaho, by allowing for the Bible to be used as law. Idaho leads the nation in faith-based child neglect related deaths.  The exemption only exists for a specific section of the Idaho population, which also has lead citizens of the state to believe the exemption is actually discriminatory in nature.
It is not an uncommon belief that even with the evidence proving that these neglectful deaths are occuring, the parental and religious rights of the parties involved in these cases are absolute in power.  The issue stretches much farther than Idaho. After the passing of the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974, states began implementing faith-based medical exemptions in return for financial aid from the federal government.  Easily avoidable deaths are occurring, and it brings up a valid question: How many deaths will it take before the endangerment of children takes precedence over the religious rights of the parents? This is in essence a free-exercise issue that upholds personal liberties for a section of the population by allowing them to give their children the treatment they believe in, while simultaneously creating the possibility of a death sentence for many innocent and blissful children who will never get to live a life they can make decisions in, based on one decision their parents made based on faith.
In my personal opinion, I believe that this debate has a very hard time being answered.  It is not rational to argue that this laws benefits outweigh it costs, but to allow the government to step in and force an individual to act or parent in a certain manner is authoritative and unconstitutional in my opinion.  A compromise on how faith-based and non western the treatment is may be warranted, but to force the parents of a newborn baby to change and expunge their values because they do not believe they can give their children certain medical treatments on a religious level is what the free-exercise clause looks to prohibit.  The government undoubtedly holds the interest of protecting its citizens, and the somewhat common fatalities of children of families who gain the religious exemption leads many to believe that there is a public consensus to get rid of the exemption.

On the other hand, the government may be able to come to the same conclusion that they did in Reynolds vs. United States, in which they decided beliefs and actions are two completely different animals.  The parents may believe that they do not have to treat their kids with western medicine because it goes against their religion, but if the states mandates that every child gets a certain type of health care, the written law would have more power than the beliefs of the people involved.  People are entitled to their beliefs, but if the actions go against the interests of the state clearly illustrated by documented law, those actions would still remain illegal. Until the exemption is deemed illegal based on solid grounds, the state does not have the right to deny the religious based exemption from the parents who believe it is in their purview and rights to use it.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Graphic Design Flaws?

A Colorado graphic designer, named Lorie Smith, is appealing a September 1st ruling against her business, 303 creative, to the U.S. Court of Appeals when she challenged a state law forcing her to promote same-sex ceremonies. A federal judge refused to temporarily halt part of the law that stopped her from publicly expressing her Christian belief in marriage between a man and a woman. This case gets very interesting because the judge has said they are putting the case on hold until Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is decided at the Supreme Court level. The basis for the federal judge’s decision was that her and the studio cannot sue part of the law because a request sent to her by a couple who identifies by the names of “Stewart” and “Mike” is not formal enough to prove that a same-sex couple actually asked the studio to help them celebrate.

Alliance Defending Freedom says that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “construed the law to force artists like Smith to create objectionable art even though Smith happily serves everyone and decides what art to create based on the art’s message- not the personal characteristics of the prospective client”. However, they may sue on part of the law that prohibits artists from expressing any religious views on marriage that could make someone feel “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable” because of sexual orientation. The only thing as I mentioned before is that they are holding the ruling until a finalization in the Jack Philips cake case.

The key issue in this case, that has been prevalent in many other cases, is the allowance of religious individuals and their businesses to refuse to engage in actions that are contrary to their religious views. I think the federal judge ruled correctly about not allowing her to sue on one portion of the law because I don’t think the argument they presented with giving two names was suffice enough to allow them leverage to sue. Also, I agree they should be able to sue the part of the law that prohibits them from expressing their religious views. I think the limits that coexist within this case and that law are within good conscious, but I don’t think they went about it in the correct way. It undermines the First Amendment in many ways, not just the religious aspects. The law hinders free speech and free press, and it particularly affects religious individuals and businesses more than others, in hopes to curb same-sex individuals from being turned away.

ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said, “The government must allow artists like Lorie the freedom to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote. Lorie is happy to design custom art for all people; she simply objects to being forced to pour her heart, imagination, and talents into messages that violate her conscience. Because the court’s ruling allows the government to violate Lorie’s freedom to make these personal decisions, she is appealing.” The argument he presents is the same as the rights given to us in the Constitution. The First Amendment gives us the right to Religion, Speech, and Press. This law prohibits them from making things that correlate with their religion, making them do things that are oppositional to it, and in some fashion violates all three of those rights.

Just as I said on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, I don’t believe individuals who are artists should be forced to make their pieces if it violates their religious beliefs. It violates their Free Exercise rights, as well as the Free Speech aspect that makes them not able to exercise their rights. Plus, I believe there is a difference between someone denying because of bigoted objectives and actual religious findings.  Along with that, it doesn’t necessarily stop the customer from being served, they will be served in other cases, just not in a way that violates their religious standing. The argument for them to be forced to make something that violates their religious rights isn’t compelling enough to allow the law to not be changed or applied differently.

Christians in the Capitol?

I was not the only one surprised that Billy Graham was still alive when he died. I however, am not surprised at how the late preacher's mortal remains are causing as much controversy. Graham's remains are lying in honor in the Capital Building's Rotunda to be honored. The lawmakers who planned this event, namely Paul Ryan, do so with the justification that Graham was an inspirational man revered by many Americans.

The issue with honoring him is that of why should he be interned and what precedent will it incur. Yes, presidents and lawmakers have honored religious leaders, but not on public space, or with honors usually reserved for past presidents. Since they were not honored on public space, there wasn't much concern for the nature of the event. Now as the honoring is in the capitol, their is implication of the work the individual being honored having an intrinsic value relating to America's ethos, government, and by that extension people. Also the ever eternal question of if the individual's personal religion or religion in general is being held above others.

I at first accepted the honor as reasonable, many had seen this an as an inspiration that improved their lives and influenced what it means to be an American,(although I do believe this is a simple and thinly veiled attempt for certain politicians to get an easy Christian label, we have to make laws that are universal and apolitical) . He was controversial, but so were some of the presidents honored in the rotunda. I was equating Graham to my personal inspiration Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers), a Presbyterian minister, who I thought would have been fitting to honor at the rotunda. Then I started reading into why Graham was honored, Ryan said Graham had “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health.”  Fred Rogers, while, religious,  was known as a moral and calm guidance for children and adults alike, he won government praise for nonreligious reasons, it wasn't the same. Graham is being praised for spreading the Gospel, I don't think that is inherently American, and by elevating him to this level of government praise will alienate people that are not Evangelical Christians.  Furthermore of the thirty-three individuals honored int he capitol, all were public servants, save three. These three were two capitol police officers (who are basically public servants too), and Rosa Parks.  Maybe non government employees should not be honored in a public setting , but either way I see a very pronounce difference between Rosa Parks and Billy Graham. One was devoted to spreading a religion, something the Constitution seeks to prevent entanglement with, and the other challenged laws that were, for one unjust and un-American, but was also unconstitutional. Billy Grahams mission was not  American, it was Christian (or his interpretation of it).  Donald Trump acknowledged this in his Speech above the casket, “Today we honor him as only three other previous private citizens have been. Like the faithful of Charlotte once did, we say a prayer that all across the land, the Lord will raise up men and women like Billy Graham to spread a message of love and hope to every precious child of God.” It just seems very obvious that the politicians and supporters of  this action are motivated by the personal and religious aspects of Graham as opposed to any real American value or purpose excluding their belief that being Christian is integral to existing as an American.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote, "The fact is that Graham lived his life in service to his evangelical Christian religion, and the Bible that he believed was an infallible reference manual. He placed the Bible far above the Constitution.”  Historians and Graham experts saying his life spanned a period when there was more of a shared concept of American “civil religion” — in other words, that being a pious person in and of itself had merit, is irrelevant to the constitution. I do believe that since Graham is being acknowledged do to being religious, that he and his religion are being privileged over all others in the nation. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Religious Right to Insubordination?

As citizens of the United States of America, we are afforded a multitude of rights outlined by our constitution and supported by judicial decision and precedence. The military however, can sometimes be a different story. When an American joins any of the nation’s uniformed services they face certain restrictions on many of their constitutional rights for the duration of their military career. For example, in order to avoid situations that could possibly be construed as a military endorsement of anything in the political realm members of the military are prohibited from supporting a specific political party or position while in uniform, and they are also prohibited from participating in political gatherings or protests while in uniform. Restrictions such as these are rather common in active duty life, but one of the rights that remains completely uninhibited is the first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The military has repeatedly shown and proven its support for the free exercise of religion through its decisions regarding exceptions to multiple standards and duties expected of military members. For example, in 2016 the United States Army amended its uniform and grooming standards to allow for religious exceptions such as the growing of beards by Sikh men as well as the wear of turbans and hijabs while in uniform. Recently though, the military saw one of its decisions regarding the freedom of religion appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

            In June of 2017 Sterling v. United States was appealed to the Supreme Court who ultimately decided not to hear the case, effectively standing by the decision reached under the Uniform Code of Military Justice(UCMJ) which is the legal code that governs the military. The case involves former Marine Corps Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, who faced court martial for multiple offenses including “one specification of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, one specification of disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer (NCO), in violation of Articles 86, 89, and 91, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. §§ 886, 889, 891 (2012)”. Charges of insubordination are taken very seriously within UCMJ, but what exactly was she accused of doing? As it turns out, the former Lance Corporal had been violating her duties for months by ignoring orders from superior officers, refusing to wear the required uniform, not fulfilling duty obligations, and disregarding direct orders to remove a sign from her desk which read “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”, an adaptation of Isaiah 54:17. Sterling’s desk was a shared work space and she was instructed on multiple occasions to remove the sign by a senior NCO. Sterling was then court martialed for these listed offences, and it was there that she asserted that she refused to remove the sign because it held religious significance to her. She claimed that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that she was within her rights to display such a sign as well as disobey orders to remove the sign. Ultimately the military court found that removing the sign was not a burden to her free exercise, finding her guilty and thereby demoting her from E-3 to E-1 and giving Sterling a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD).

            Sterling’s defense creates a few interesting questions. First, was the order to remove the sign a violation of Sterling’s free exercise; Second, does the right to free exercise of religion allow for the disobeying of direct orders in the military? In regards to the first question, no her right to free exercise of religion was not violated. In this instance the military court was correct by ruling that since removal of the sign did not place an unnecessary burden on her religion or prevent her from directly practicing her religion, her right to free exercise was not violated. The second question is where things become more convoluted. According to UCMJ it is possible to applicable to disobey direct orders if those orders are illegal or immoral. This allows room for the disobeying of orders based on religious conscience, however the disobeying of direct orders disrupts military readiness and discipline meaning that and such insubordinations would have to be taken on a contextual basis in order to evaluate their validity through UCMJ. Despite the ability to appeal UCMJ decisions to the Supreme Court, the fact that the military operates off of an additional legal code, rather solely off of the legislature of the federal government, makes it remarkably difficult to determine how certain laws and rights are to be incorporated to service members and civilians on a relatively equivalent basis.


Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has repeatedly made remarks the he plans to destroy the Johnson Amendment. Last year, President Trump marked his first National Prayer Day by signing an executive order weakening the amendment designed to prevent all non-profit organizations from endorsing political campaigns. The executive order requested the IRS use maximum discretion when examining if preachers were being too political on the pulpit. The Johnson amendment was passed in 1954 and it prevents all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from using their funds to oppose or endorse political candidates or organizations. 501(c)(3) organizations have a special tax status in that donors can write off their donations for a tax deduction. The amendment was passed in order to prevent tax-payer money from indirectly benefiting candidates, protecting the integrity of all non-profits, and preventing non-profits being used as organizations to funnel dark money into politics.
The amendment does not prevent clergy from addressing politics issues on the pulpit. It also does not prevent clergy from using an occasional sermon to point out moral and religious issues with certain candidates, however they cannot use the pulpit to consistently endorse political parties or candidates. Under the current law, church resources cannot be directly funneled into political activities. Furthermore, religious leaders are free to use their personal time and social status to endorse or oppose political candidates as they see fit. In a sense, the tax code creates a total prohibition on the interference of churches and other non-profits in our election system. With the current total prohibition, the IRS rarely has to monitor religious organizations for electioneering. If a permissive standard is created, then their is a potential the IRS will be forced to entangle itself in religious affairs to ensure their practices are abiding to the code.

In recent years, the Johnson amendment has come under attack from religious organizations. Opponents of the amendment claim it interferes with a religious-organizations abilities to freely act on its beliefs. They claim the amendment is a clear violation of the free-practice clause. They want to ensure donations to religious organizations can still be tax deductible, while giving religious groups the ability to fund campaigns and take more active roles in elections. President Trump is not the only political leader attempting to change this law. Last year, the Free Speech and Fairness Act was introduced in the house and senate by three congressional republicans, including the majority whip Steve Scalise. More recently, the house passed an amendment in the new tax bill which would have repealed the Johnson Amendment. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan Join Committee on Taxation revealed repealing the amendment would allow for several billion dollars in nontransparent, anonymous political campaign spending to be redirected through 501(c)(3) organizations.

This talk of repealing the Johnson amendment is dangerous for our democracy. Seventy-one percent of Americans believe the separation of religious organizations from political campaigns is essential for maintaining religious rights in the country. After President Trump signed his EO, over 1,300 faith leaders signed an open letter opposing his actions. They recognized the threat these actions have towards the rich religious diversity of the US, and the divisive impact of introducing politics into our houses of worship.

I believe the Johnson amendment is essential for two reasons. First, the manner in which congress has attempted to change the law would only benefit religious institutions. This is not facially neutral, and would create a governmental preference for religion which would violate the establishment clause. In its current state, the law is facially neutral and has been applied in a neutral and sparingly fashion. Any changes could change the neutral status of the law. Second, and most importantly, the amendment prevents entanglement of any kind between the Church and the state. The tax exempt status of churches ensure the government has no reason to interfere with religious organizations in order to extract more tax dollars. The requirement of political neutrality ensures the religious organizations do not use this tax exempt status to establish their religious views in law. Changing the law could require the IRS to reevaluate an organizations status; this would create excessive surveillance and entanglement between church and state. Moreover, the law prevents religious organizations from entangling themselves in state policy in a direct extent. If churches could call in political favors because of their funding, the rule of secular law would shift towards the rule of religious law. As Justice Burger stated in Lemon V. Kurtzman, "A certain momentum develops in constitutional theory and it can be a 'downhill thrust' easily set in motion but difficult to retard or stop." If religious organizations were allowed to directly interfere in political elections monetarily, the creep of religious interference in state affairs would be hard to stop and would be a danger to the separation of church and state.

Build That Wall (of seperation)

The honoring of a private citizen in the Capitol Building Rotunda has been reserved for, “the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens by having their remains lay in state (in the case of government officials and military officers) or in honor (in the case of private citizens)”. With this being said, the last private citizen to be honored in the Capitol Building’s Rotunda was Rosa Parks, that is until Billy Graham was honored this past week.

Paul Ryan’s announcement of Grahams honoring caused a series of vehement letters from non-religious citizens as they believe that it was unconstitutional to use government dollars to display and honor Graham’s body in the Capitol’s Rotunda, as well the display is an clear establishment and preference of religion. Among these objectors were the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The foundation wrote a letter to Paul Ryan and Mitchell McConnell stating their concerns with the subject being, “Inappropriate for Rev. Billy Graham to “lie in state” in U.S. Capitol”. The group’s letter includes many reasons that they object the honoring of Graham in the Rotunda, one being that the use of government dollars to display and fund the transport of Graham’s body clearly violates the First Amendments Establishment Clause. The group also goes on to state that the invitations sent out by the government show a preference for one religion, “Your invitation to the family of Billy Graham is indubitably problematic, because it creates Congressional preference for the Southern Baptist Convention and evangelical Christianity over others”. Although these arguments may seem far-fetched, the actual basis may prove to be arguable. Consequently, the question at stake is does the use of government dollars to fund the display and honor of Billy Graham in the Capitol Rotunda, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

The honoring of Billy Graham violates the First Amendments Establishment Clause as it shows a clear advancement of a religious group, particularly Christianity, in a government building. In my opinion, this display of Graham’s body can be related to the display of the Ten Commandments on or near Government property. Just as the Ten Commandments is associated with a religion, so is Billy Graham. With that being said, the display of such content, via the ruling in McCreary County v. ACLU, is in fact unconstitutional. The ruling stated, “our only case dealing with the constitutionality of displaying the Commandments.  Stone recognized that the Commandments are an “instrument of religion” and that, at least on the facts before it, the display of their text could presumptively be understood as meant to advance religion…”. I believe that a minister of Graham’s caliber can be seen as an “instrument of religion” and cannot constitutionally be displayed in the Capitol Building per his impact and recognition from the religious community.

Likewise, the Capitol Rotunda has only been used to display three other private citizens, emphasizing the implications of the display of Graham. The others that have received the honor have not been recognized for their contributions to the religious community, but rather to society as a whole. The use of the Capitol Rotunda to display a private citizen unquestionably supports their actions and their cause, for Graham this was his Evangelic Christian agenda. In addition to McCreary V. ACLU being used to show the unconstitutionality of the display of Graham, it can also be used to support that argument that the display can be seen as extremely divisive and therefore unconstitutional, “By showing a purpose to favor religion, the government “sends the … message to … non-adherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members…”. Although the display of Graham is open to the public, the person being displayed represents a religion, particularly benefiting the sector of the public that his religious views agree with and this could be seen as divisive.

Many would contend that Graham being the spiritual advisor to many presidents, indicates his ‘eminent’ impact on society, similar to others that have been honored in the Rotunda. Although, I would like to suggest that though I can see the importance of a spiritual advisor in the ethical decisions of the presidency, these advisories did not ultimately impact the public, but rather the president privately. If the argument is to be made that these meetings did affect the public, this would in turn be suggesting that the highest power in the government is making decisions motivated by his faith, violating the separation of Church and State. On the same note, the presidential spiritual and mental wellbeing is important, but cannot be used as a compatible measurement for the benefit of society when placed next to the contributions made by other private citizens like Rosa Parks.

The impacts of having a religious figure honored in this way can result in the government pushing the envelope on many other constitutional rights. How can citizens place trust in a neutral government when they are blatantly promoting one religion by honoring one of its most famous and prominent figures? If the government is able to honor major religious figures in the Rotunda, why now has it only been one that coincides with the current president’s beliefs? This should be the critical analysis in which all citizens should go through when interpreting the current implications of the Billy Graham’s ceremony in the Rotunda.

The concerns of the Freedom from Religion Foundation should not fall on deaf ears, as the display of Billy Graham and the implications of a religious figure at the Capitol Rotunda can clearly be seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause per the Supreme Court rulings stated. Such preferences and entanglements for religion have been warned against by many, particularly James Madison in his Remonstrance going against the intwining of Religion and government, “the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation”.

Should Doctors be Coerced to Recommend Abortion?

It is easy these days to misconstrue the founder’s intent in authoring the Bill of Rights, deliberately obscuring what was stated and intended to purposely lead us to a wrong conclusion.

The ten rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights were included to protect the individual from government coercion; these were the ways that the government could not interfere or mess with the individual. In the First Amendment, for example, the individual’s right to free speech is not to be confused with his or her obligation to speak; individual’s are free to speak without fear of government coercion, but not obliged to say anything at all.

In this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, it is held by the plaintiff that a provider of women’s reproductive counseling is obliged by the First Amendment to inform clients of the opportunity for abortion to terminate their pregnancy. California has recently enforced the “California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act” which requires even the religiously affiliated pro-life centers to inform their clients of the other options outside of what they believe in, in this case abortion. This act is enacted upon both unlicensed and licensed clinics in order to ensure the California population is adequately informed of all possible solutions and care guides regarding their pregnancy. The Institute of Family and Life Advocates and other pro-life clinics, collectively known as NILFA,  however, argue that informing and counseling patients with information that they don’t morally align with is unconstitutional, and they are protected by the First Amendment.

The inevitable question is raised: is this act constitutional? The most common answer to this infamous question is whether or not is passes the Lemon Test. The first requirement of the test is regarding the secular purpose of the act, in which this act upholds. The second requirement raises controversy, though, as it inhibits citizens from practicing their religion to the full extent. Additionally, in regards to the third requirement, it implies excessive entanglement between government regulation and religious practice.   

Earlier in the year, a case arose regarding a similar precedent. In Missouri, a concerned, anonymous citizen brought to the Supreme Court’s attention that when trying to receive an abortion, she was forced to look at an unwanted ultrasound and read pamphlets that suggested alternative methods for caring for the child outside of termination. This concerned citizen argued for her religious beliefs stating that no outside information should be forced upon her, persuading her to alter her original decision. The ideals that this case deals with are similar to those of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The only difference of interest, however, is bringing up the rights of the unborn child, in which our Nation has not concluded or defined yet.

Recall, that the First Amendment does not oblige any speech, but rather protects all speech. The First Amendment, then, does not place any obligation on the clinic to engage in any speech that they find objectionable, particularly those that do not comply with their religious views. On the contrary, in this case it is the state,California, which creates the obligation to engage in certain patterns of speech which the state authorizes and enforces.

One may only hope that the citizens of California and of the United States of America are informed of all possible options, particularly in a time of need if the case of an unwanted pregnancy were to occur. In this regard, it is vital for clinics to ensure their clients are informed and educated on all possible paths in regards to their child; however, we must then consider the counselor and her or his rights under the First Amendment in providing information to their client. She or he is protected, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in practicing her tradition of faith. To the extent that their faith tradition recognizes the sovereignty of the unborn human, they are not obliged in speech or conduct which would violate that sensibility. Plainly stated, the First Amendment protects the counselor from the establishment of any government religion and allows the counselor, then, to practice their own tradition of faith. If one’s faith obliges them to seriously include the unborn person in their counseling activities, they can not then be obliged to outline the alternative routes. In sum, the California Act is not protecting these individuals from anything, it is forcing unwanted speech upon them.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Freedom of Conscience or Freedom of Discrimination?

It is fair to say that the legalization of gay marriage is one event in American history that will leave a lasting mark on our national identity.  The movement for this right took decades of fighting from a segment of the population that has historically been labeled as deviant and obscene.  That fighting, over time, led to societal acceptance.  The groundbreaking ruling in Obergfell vs. Hodges made tangible what previously, couldn't have even been dreamed of by many.

The Supreme Court ruling, however, has received blowback from both individuals and state governments.  The main argument used by both is based in the judaeo-christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Specifically, in the state of Mississippi, the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Law" was created to allow people employed by the state to authorize marriage certificates to refuse certificates to gay couples on religious grounds.

The law states that 
marriage clerks must "take all necessary steps to ensure that the authorization and licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal."

The makers of the law believe that state employees should be allowed to refuse authorization as such authorization goes against their belief in the sanctity of marriage.  

Critics, however, believe that this law opens the door to sexuality based discrimination.  Nationwide, advocacy groups have been rallying to contest the law.  

A case was brought against the state of Mississippi by an advocacy group called "Campaign for Southern Equality" in the case: "Campaign for Southern Equality vs. Bryant." 

Originally the case was heard by a U.S. district judge who ruled against the law but last year, a three member judge panel for the U.S. fifth circuit of appeals ruled that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate how they have or will be affected by the law.  This overturned ruling allowed the law to take effect in October.  Essentially, the court ruled "no harm, no foul."  

Recently, the supreme court declined two cases brought against the law on the same grounds.

Although the law currently stands, the ruling in the court of appeals laid groundwork for similar cases in the future. 

This ruling leaves us with a question that will most probably be asked again in the near future: "does the requirement for government officials to validate gay marriage certificates violate their first amendment right to free exercise?"

I believe that it doesn't.

Although the ruling was made over one hundred years ago, I believe that case can be connected to Reynolds vs. U.S.  In the case, the Supreme Court ruled that Reynolds, a mormon, didn't have his constitutional right to free exercise violated by a law that prevented him from engaging in polygamy.  The main argument presented by the majority opinion was that the state had a compelling interest not to allow polygamy. In short, the court ruled that the law was made to protect the public and was crucial that it let stand for the morality of the society at large.

Although the specifics of the case aren't necessarily pertinent, the idea that a state's compelling interest can outweigh the religious practices of a sect are.

In response to the section of the law that requires clerks to "ensure that the licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal," I believe that it's simply not viable in practice nor is it enforceable.  What if there's only one person legally authorized to give marriage certificates for hundreds of miles and they claim religious immunity?  Additionally, how could the state make sure that NO marriage certificate is held up due to the personal refusals of government officials.  That kind of standard would be difficult, if not impossible to uphold. 

For me, this case boils down to weight.  Does a person's religious right to not authorize a document trump a person's right to pursuit of happiness as well as the state's compelling interest to allow for the marriage of it's citizens? Again, I believe it doesn't.