THE HOPE: Supreme Court Reaffirms Religious Liberty Despite Its Same-Sex Marriage Decision

July 7, 2015

All justices reaffirm right to faith-based dissent on same-sex marriage

In a five-four decision that shook the nation with controversy, the Supreme Court ruled a little over a week ago that all 50 states must permit and recognize same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion (joined by Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayer and Kagan) and the four dissenters (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) all recognized and reaffirmed religious American’s First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty.

“The Supreme Court unanimously recognized the importance of religious liberty,” says Justin Butterfield, Esq., Senior Counsel and Director of Research and Education for First liberty Institute.


In one key paragraph, Justice Kennedy makes three major recognitions concerning the importance of protecting religious freedom.

·      First, Kennedy makes it indisputably clear that those with religious affiliations may live in accordance with their conscience regarding marriage: 

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

·      Second, Kennedy affirms that this protection is granted by the First Amendment. He also recognizes that the view of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman has been long-held by many Americans, validating traditional marriage as a legitimate viewpoint:

“The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

·      Third, Kennedy upholds a vital aspect of America’s political and cultural tradition by recognizing the importance of free debate, an activity central to our nation’s foundation:

“In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.”

“In Justice Kennedy’s opinion, the majority opinion, he recognized the strong protections recognized by the First Amendment for religious organizations and persons,” Butterfield says, “and that is an important principle as we deal with the implications of the decision—that no matter what happens, religious liberty is a fundamental right that is respected in our country and must be held inviolate.”


Prior to the decision, First liberty Institute submitted a friend-of-the-court brief, advocating the importance of protected religious liberty. 

“Millions of Christian ministers, teachers, and leaders are compelled by faith and conscience to preach and speak aloud their millennia-old and sincerely held religious view that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman,” First liberty Institute’s brief read. “This Court should reaffirm that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects religious dissenters who disagree with same-sex marriage and to reaffirm the importance of free debate and free inquiry in this democratic Republic.”

Justice Kennedy’s paragraph on religious protection duly recognized the language in the brief.


In the midst of threats to religious organizations and individuals, Kennedy’s words offer a strong defense for freedom.

“Justice Kennedy, joined by the liberals, is recognizing our religious liberty rights,” Jeff Mateer, First liberty Institute General Counsel said in a recent radio interview on the national The Glenn Beck Program. “I actually think Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, gives faith-based businesses a leg to stand on.”

First liberty Institute is already representing many who have been persecuted simply because of their beliefs concerning marriage:

·      United States Navy Chaplain Wes Modder now faces possible dishonorable discharge for privately stating his sincere religious conviction that marriage is meant for one man and one woman. (Case ongoing.)

·      Georgia Department of Public Health and layman pastor Dr. Eric Walsh was terminated after the GDPH reviewed his sermons on marriage. (Case ongoing.)

·      United States Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was relieved of his duties, reassigned, and then read his (Miranda) rights after stating, “I cannot answer that question the way you want” when his Commanding Officer asked him whether persons who oppose same-sex marriage are violating laws against discrimination. (Victory for First liberty Institute and MSGT Monk.)

Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Mateer warns that “clashes” like these will increase. The good news, however, is that in the same decision that recognizes same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right, the First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise are reaffirmed and defended. This will not only help as more cases arise, but will strengthen First liberty Institute’s defense in current cases, like the ones listed above.


First liberty Institute remains undeterred in its mission to defend religious liberty in America. In the face of last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, the legal organization is encouraged to see that all nine Supreme Court Justices agree that religious liberty and the First Amendment must be protected.

“Some people think, ‘this case was the end of the battle,’” CEO Kelly Shackelford says. “This is really the very beginning of the battle as to religious freedom, and I think it’s a battle we can win, and we will win.”

See First liberty Institutes 5-point Plan to prepare yourself, your ministry and your business for victory in light of Friday’s SCOTUS decision!

Please click here if you would like to give a donation to help defend and restore religious freedom.

Other stories:

The Growing Threat: Dangers Lurk from SCOTUS Marriage Decision

Oklahoma Supreme Court Declares Ten Commandments Monument Unconstitutional—First liberty Institute Responds

About First liberty Institute
First liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit

Social Facebook Social Instagram Twitter X Icon | First Liberty Institute Social Youtube Social Linkedin

Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyState DisclosuresSitemap • © 2024 Liberty Institute® is a trademark of First Liberty Institute