July 19, 2014 – Laws, Lawsuits and Liberty

On This week’s State of Belief special guest host Kevin Eckstrom, Editor-in-Chief of Religion News Service, sits in as host Welton Gaddy continues to take some time off. We’ll hear from two civil rights leaders, Rabbi David Saperstein and Stacey Long Simmons, as they wrestle with religious exemptions to LGBT equality proposals. Muslim Advocates returns to our show to discuss their latest work to protect religious communities from government surveillance and discrimination. Finally we’ll learn about a court ruling in Indiana where a secular leader has won the right to solemnize weddings. Download Icon

The LGBT Equality Executive Order: When the Religious Don’t Want a Religious Exemption
In the month since the President announced that he would sign an executive order barring discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, a debate has brewed about whether this order should have a religious exemption. While several religious leaders have urged the president to allow religious contractors to continue to discriminate – many others have spoken out on the other side. Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and a long-time legal scholar and activist, joins us to discuss why its important that religious communities speak out against this religious exemption. Update: the White House has announced that President Obama will sign the executive order on Monday (July 21) with no additional “religious exemptions.”

Click here for extended interview video and transcript
 

ENDA and the Religious Exemption: When LGBT Rights Groups Don’t Support an LGBT Rights Bill
Last week a number of prominent LGBT rights organizations withdrew their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because of the current version’s over-broad religious exemption. First among these groups was the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This week Stacey Long Simmons, the NGLTF’s director for public policy and government affairs, will explain why so many groups have expressed concerns about this religious exemption and what can be done to make ENDA a stronger bill in the future.

KE_SLS_tnClick here for extended interview video and transcript

 

 

Hassan v. City of New York: The NYPD’s Surveillance of the Muslim Community
Next we’ll welcome back to the show Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates, to discuss the latest developments in their case against the New York Police Department. Since allegations arose that the NYPD intentionally targeted Muslims, Muslim community centers and houses of worship for surveillance, Muslim Advocates has been arguing in court that this program violates the Muslim community’s civil rights and religious freedom. Glenn will fill us in on the latest developments in the case, including their work to mobilize the interfaith community.

The Other Religious Freedom Issue at the Wedding Altar
We’ve spent a lot of time on State of Belief making the case that full marriage equality is essential for religious freedom in the United States. However, there is another religious freedom issue at stake in U.S. marriage laws that we don’t hear about as often – who does and doesn’t have the right to officiate at a wedding. Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director for the Center for Inquiry Indiana, will share her experience as one of the few ‘secular celebrants’ (and CFI’s trainer for other secular celebrants) who have won the right to solemnize marriages in this country. Don’t miss this opportunity to see inside this little-discussed facet of the struggle for religious freedom.