Lesbian Senator: Churches Have Religious Freedom, People Not So Much

by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 8, 2015   

No free exercise

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin has a bizarre interpretation of the First Amendment. According to the first openly homosexual senator in U.S. history, the line in the Constitution that states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" applies only to religious institutions, not to individual citizens.

In an interview with MSNBC, Baldwin was asked by the host if Christian-owned bakeries should "have to bake the cake" if a same-sex couple demands they bake it for their wedding. Baldwin responded by essentially saying individuals have absolutely no rights to religious freedom anywhere outside their places of worship, which means Americans only have freedom to worship, not freedom to exercise their religion.

Certainly the First Amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don't think it extends far beyond that. We've seen the set of arguments play out in issues such as access to contraception. Should it be the individual pharmacist whose religious beliefs guides whether a prescription is filled, or in this context, they're talking about expanding this far beyond our churches and synagogues to businesses and individuals across this country. I think there are clear limits that have been set in other contexts and we ought to abide by those in this new context across America.

According to James L. Oberstar at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, "At the Founding, as today, 'exercise' connoted action, not just internal belief." This correct interpretation of the First Amendment has been upheld and invoked in multiple Supreme Court cases, starting with West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943, where Jehovah's Witnesses were permitted to abstain from compulsory flag salutes, and ending with the Hobby Lobby decision in 2014, which said that closely held corporations can exercise conscience protections under the terms of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


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