|For Immediate Release
July 7, 2015
Manassas, VA– Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, sent a letter Tuesday to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling on Congress to approve the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) to protect and safeguard religious freedom in light of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage.
Calling the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “a textbook example of judicial activism,” Dr. Johnson wrote to alert these Congressional leaders that a “fundamental and pressing concern is the government’s intentions for the clearly delineated guarantee in the U.S. Constitution that citizens may freely exercise their religion.”
Highlighting comments from the Executive Branch - the shocking admission by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that tax treatment of religious organizations upholding marriage is “certainly going to be an issue” - and the Judicial Branch - the Court’s ruling that could be used to muddy the First Amendment’s protection for religious free exercise - Dr. Johnson stated, “I urge the Legislative Branch to actively preserve and protect citizens’ rights in the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
He added, “I hope that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will rush to approve legislation defending such basic freedoms.”
The full text of Dr. Johnson’s letter is below:
Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell:
As President and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), I write to respectfully request that the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate take immediate action to ensure the rights of American citizens who are deeply troubled by the recent action of the U.S. Supreme Court to impose “gay marriage” nationwide. Specifically, I ask that Congress approve the First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802, S. 1598) and advance it to the President’s desk for signature into law.
The majority ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges was a textbook example of judicial activism. Not only was it a slap in the face of the principles of federalism and democratic governance, but it showed disdain for a holy institution that has been the bedrock of human society for millennia. Like Roe v Wade, we must limit the damage of this devastating and overreaching judgment.
Related to this decision, another fundamental and pressing concern is the government’s intentions for the clearly delineated guarantee in the U.S. Constitution that citizens may freely exercise their religion. As you know, when asked during oral argument if a ruling imposing “gay marriage” nationwide could lead to a college losing its tax-exempt status for adhering to its convictions on marriage, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted, “…it's certainly going to be an issue…. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is – it is going to be an issue.” Moreover, in his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts warned, “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage…. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.”
The statements of the Executive and Judicial Branches give us pause. I urge the Legislative Branch to actively preserve and protect citizens’ rights in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Please pass the First Amendment Defense Act. This bill is simply a shield against federal agents who might be tempted to use tax treatment, licensing, grants, and the like to coerce or discriminate against individuals or organizations that merely wish to live in light of their religious conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I hope that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will rush to approve legislation defending such basic freedoms.
Thank you for your consideration and your leadership of the U.S. Congress.
Jerry A. Johnson, Ph.D.
President & CEO
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a non-partisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.
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