Equal rights or religious liberty? States continue the battle

As the division between supporters of religious rights versus civil rights grows wider, states across the nation are engaged in a battle over how to prevent discrimination against sexual identity yet protect the right of individuals and organizations to stand on their religious convictions. Below are a few of the court battles that have taken place over the past few months:

St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in New Jersey, is currently fighting a battle for refusing to perform a transgender surgery on a biological female who identifies as a male. The plaintiff found another hospital to perform the surgery, but filed the suit, claiming the St. Joseph’s violated the discrimination clause under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes gender identity and sexual orientation.

In a similar battle, Catholic organizations in North Dakota filed a lawsuit in December on behalf of hospitals under their administration stating that the ACA’s discrimination clause violated their First Amendment rights to operate according to their religious faith. According to World News Group, Catholic hospitals say they would never refuse medically necessary treatment to transgender persons, but removing healthy body parts or giving hormone injections on request is different.

“We ask only for the freedom to serve consistent with our conscience and our Catholic faith,” said Bishop John T. Folda of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. “While we do not discriminate against individuals because of their orientation, our Catholic values will not permit us to pay for or facilitate actions that are contrary to our faith.”

Last month, Missouri State University settled a lawsuit against student Andrew Cash after expelling him from the master’s program in counseling for his objection to counseling same-sex couples during his internship, although the Christian counseling agency he worked with held the same policy.

In Minnesota, founders of a Christian film company filed a complaint over a state anti-discrimination law that prevents creative companies from declining to serve same-sex weddings. According to the Alliance of Defending Freedom (ADF), violations of the state’s laws could result in fines up to $25,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

A group of faith organizations across the country have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that expanded the definition of sex in a federal anti-discrimination law to include gender identity. According to Baptist Press, the Court is likely to hear arguments in March or April. A decision could be expected sometime this summer.