Home June 2014 Religious rights fight now shifts to courts

Religious rights fight now shifts to courts

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PORTLAND —The effort to guarantee religious freedom for Oregon businesses and individuals to not serve same-sex weddings will be pursued through the courts, rather than through a statewide voter initiative as first planned.

The Oregon Family Council and its offshoot, Friends of Religious Freedom, announced last month that it is suspending plans to get Initiative (IP) 52 on this fall’s statewide ballot and will instead “seek enforcement of existing constitutional rights through the courts rather than to make new law.”

A major factor in that decision was that the initiative backers on May 8 lost an appeal before the Oregon Supreme Court regarding the ballot title for the proposed initiative. Friends of Religious Freedom contended the title written by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office was politically charged wording that would have biased voters against the measure. More specifically, the proposed title described the measure as providing “exceptions to anti-discrimination laws.”

“The intent of IP 52 is to end this religious discrimination in Oregon by providing individuals of faith with protection equal under the law to that of religious clergy,” Friends of Religious Freedom said in a prepared statement. “But the certified ballot title does not acceptably state this. Indeed, it states it as intolerant instead of proteching equal rights of conscience.”

Current Oregon law provides protection to religious institutions and clergy who don’t want to participate in same-sex ceremonies. But the group contends such “segregation between individuals of faith and religious clergy already violates both the federal and state constitutions,” so the group plans to “back an enforcement lawsuit that will be filed shortly in Oregon on behalf of individuals of faith in expressive professions who are currently being coerced to violate their faiths.”