Striking a Balance:
Advancing Civil and Human Rights While Preserving Religious Liberty Updated March 2016
“Striking a Balance: Advancing Civil and Human Rights While Preserving Religious Liberty” is an initiative of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. Staff assistance was provided by Jordyn Bussey, Julie Faust, Sergio Lopez, Patrick McNeil, and Scott Simpson. Lisa Bornstein, Jeff Miller and Corrine Yu were editors of the report. Overall supervision was provided by Ellen Buchman, Executive Vice President. We would like to thank Peter Montgomery, principal author of the report. Also, we are grateful to the following individuals and organizations who provided useful data, information and support for the project: Ryan Roemerman, Executive Director, LGBT Institute, National Center for Civil and Human Rights; Jeff Graham, Executive Director, Georgia Equality; Richard Cohen, President, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rose Saxe, staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender and AIDS Projects; Ian Thompson, Legislative Representative, ACLU; Matt McTighe, Executive Director, Freedom for All Americans; and Dan Rafter, Senior Account Manager, Spitfire Strategies; and Nancy J. Knauer, I. Herman Stern Professor of Law and Director of Law and Public Policy Programs, Temple University, Beasley School of Law. We would also like to thank the Human Rights Campaign for its ongoing support and leadership on LGBT issues.
Wade Henderson, President and CEO The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The design and layout were created by Laura Drachsler. Finally, we would like to acknowledge and thank the Gill Foundation for its financial support for this project, and specifically, Vice President of Programs and Communications Bobby Clark and Program Officer Sara Santos for their vision and support. The authors and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of statements and interpretations contained in this publication. The Leadership Conference Education Fund is a 501(C)(3) organization that builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Access this material online at www.leadershipconferenceedfund.org.
Karen McGill Lawson, Executive Vice President and COO The Leadership Conference Education Fund
Table of Contents
Chapter I: The Perversion of the Concept of Religious Freedom
Chapter II: The Tortured Legal Interpretations of Religious Liberty
Chapter III: Historical Uses of Religion to Deny Equality
Chapter IV: Discrimination “Masquerading as Religious Conviction”
Chapter V: Federal Efforts: Are Religious and LGBT Rights in Conflict
Chapter VI: Potential Harms from Religious Exemption Laws
Chapter VII: The Future of RFRA, Nondiscrimination Laws, and Religious Exemptions
The advance of legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is one in a long history of successes in challenging institutional discrimination and dismantling legal barriers to opportunity. The progressive advocacy community also has a strong record of supporting religious freedom for all Americans and working to protect the ability of all people, particularly religious minorities, to exercise their faith.
These efforts do not threaten the interests of LGBT people alone. Among those whose interests are at risk are women and people with disabilities. Conservative political organ