This week, Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States. His itinerary includes a meeting with President Barack Obama and an address to Congress in Washington; a visit to the United Nations and mass at Madison Square Garden in New York; and a final stop in Philadelphia, where he will help conclude the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
The Pope arrives at a time when the constitutional debate over the origins and meaning of religious liberty in the United States has reached a fever pitch.
As discussed on We the People two weeks ago, there are currently several lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Last Thursday—on Constitution Day, no less—the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of religious objectors, setting up a circuit split and increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will consider the issue in the near future.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized a right to marry for same-sex couples, the nation has followed closely the story of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
There has also been movement in Congress.
Some Republicans have introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from taking action against a person or organization for acting in accordance with their religious and moral beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.
And some Democrats have introduced the Equality Act, which would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protection of individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Does religious freedom necessarily conflict with LGBT rights? If so, under our Constitution, which claim wins out? Is there a way to ensure freedom for all?
Kristina Arriaga is the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Before joining Becket, she spent several years at the United Nations and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Kristina is also a frequent guest and commentator on religious liberty for NPR, MSNBC and Fox, among others.
Greg Lipper is Senior Litigation Counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He was part of the team that represented residents of Greece, NY, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a 2014 Supreme Court case about government-led prayer. Greg is also lead counsel in cases about the ACA’s contraception mandate and Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.
This show was engineered and edited by Jason Gregory. It was produced by Nicandro Iannacci. Research was provided by Joshua Waimberg and Danieli Evans.
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