Statement from the National LGBTQ Task Force Policy Director Liz Seaton on the recent religious-freedom SCOTUS rulings:
Upending decades of precedent that protected the religious freedom of students across the country and strongly supported our Democracy in our pluralistic society, today the U.S. Supreme Court took another extreme step to further erode the long-standing church-state separation in the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. Six right-wing justices voted as a bloc that public schools can take no action when a public high school football coach, while on duty and responsible for students, kneels and prays at the center of a school event (in this case, a football game).
The Task Force strongly disagrees with this decision, which the right-wing justices support with a cherry-picked version interpretation of history. Though nothing in the U.S. Constitution suggests this interpretation, their ruling appears to say that religious speech enjoys greater protection than other types of speech — a clear erosion of our nation's church-state separation.
Just last week, the Court degraded the essential separation of church and state in another case where Maine tried to meet its mandate to provide every student with free access to public education by making funding available for secular private schools where no public high school existed. The six right-wingers ruled, again as a bloc, to force states to fund religious schools when many openly discriminate against LGBTQ students and families. It is profoundly wrong for taxpayer money to be used to discriminate against us in any context, including paying private actors discriminate against LGBTQ people. Furthermore, conservative justices outlined their intention to dismantle the right to privacy and marriage equality when the opportunity presents itself. Right-wing zealots are undoubtedly drafting legal challenges to further strip communities of hard-won rights.
These two rulings are forceful swings of the right-wing sledgehammer to knock down the separation between church and state. With more than 5 million LGBTQ people of faith living in this country, the Task Force strongly supports spiritual, religious and secular practices through our Faith Work. We stand shoulder to shoulder with faith leaders across the country, partnering with leaders and house of worship that welcome and affirm LGBTQ people.
It is important for people to understand that we have a two-branch problem in the federal government. Conservatives on the Supreme Court and in the U.S. Senate are leaders in the right-wing's unyielding campaign to erode our rights and our liberty and undermine our Democracy. Right-wing Senators used the racist filibuster to block people's voting rights as well as key voting reforms, among other actions. They refused to vote for legislation to protect the rights of people who need abortions. They will not allow federal funds to be used to pay for abortion access through a nasty measure called the Hyde Amendment. While President Biden and progressive congressmembers have offered up much strong legislation to help people in their daily lives, for example providing housing funds to people living in poverty, mandating paid family leave, and so forth, conservatives refuse to pass them. Our Democracy is both principles and our people. Both are under assault.
All of this poses an immediate threat to our Democracy and the rights and liberties for which the Task Force advocates every day. At the state level, "Don't Say Gay," transgender health care bans, and other hateful laws, are dangerous for queer people. At every level of government, hateful political rhetoric and ugly laws fuel the increasing violent extremism aimed at the diverse LGBTQ community.
The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. We are building a future where everyone can be free to be their entire selves in every aspect of their lives. Today, despite all the progress we've made to end discrimination, millions of LGBTQ people face barriers in every aspect of their lives: in housing, employment, healthcare, retirement, and basic human rights.