Saturday, April 09, 2016

Do Religious Liberty Laws Give Christians a Right to Feed the Hungry, Even When It Is Against the Law?

The new religious liberty laws in the South allow people to deny service to others on the basis of the server's religious beliefs.

The laws were written so that, to take a real example, a Christian baker could refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding.

In some of the same states, laws have been passed to prevent Christians from feeding the homeless in public places.

I wonder if these religious liberty laws would also allow people to claim a legal right to serve people on the basis of the server's religious beliefs?


Barry said...

Good thinking: I think the law of unintended consequences applies here. These types of laws can lead to all sorts of scenarios. It will be very interesting to see how the NC law plays out. It has the potential to be a lighting rod for many groups

Mac said...
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Mac said...

There is certainly a colorable equal protection argument that the same freedom of conscience that applies to one also applies to the other. HOWEVER, I am not aware of any law that requires the baker to bake the cake, so there is also a colorable argument that you are talking apples and oranges, i.e., that because the State has not enacted two contradictory laws, there is no equal protection violation. Remember, the right to force the baker to violate his conscience is a matter of a district court's constitutional interpretation, not statutory law, which can be fixed in the legislative branch.

Additionally, I am unaware of any such overbroad statue as you posit. No State has enacted any law that forbids Christians (or Jews or Muslims or heathens) from feeding the poor. There are, however, duly enacted ordinances that limit "where" or "when" such charitable acts may take place under the police power to prevent public nuisance or to preserve order. In other words, you can feed or clothe whomever you please, but you cannot do so at a time or place that can cause disorderly conduct or cause unsanitary or other conditions inimical to public health.

It is good to be a lawyer!