The future of religious institutions rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court justices whose ruling on California's Proposition 8, expected sometime in June, could change policies on adoptions, marriage counseling, employment, the contraceptive mandate and even student housing on religious college campuses.
The Supreme Court justices' ruling in the case Hollingsworth vs. Perry heard Tuesday will decide whether a lower court was wrong to declare that Proposition 8, a referendum that decided that same-sex couples may not get married, is unconstitutional.
Marc Stern, the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee and a contributor to the book, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, wrote in his CNN Opinion column published on Monday that religion "should play no direct role in deciding whether the Constitution requires the states or the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage."
That said, religious institutions would be affected by the Supreme Court's decision if California's Proposition 8 isn't upheld, and same-sex marriage becomes legal in all 50 states.
According to Stern, the fact that "some religious groups regard same-sex marriage as an 'abomination' does not authorize the government to ban such relationships."
But he added, "… when government does recognize same-sex marriage, it creates a new set of problems for the liberties of religious believers. These extend well beyond the right of clergy or houses of worship not to perform or host same-sex ceremonies, or the right of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage to remain tax exempt."
Stern cited four issues of concern that religious institutions will likely face if Proposition 8 isn't upheld, and ministers, rabbis and priests are forced to compromise their doctrinal values:
"Must rabbis, priests and pastors provide religious marriage counseling to same-sex couples? Must religious colleges provide married-student housing to same-sex couples? Must churches and synagogues employ spouses who are in same-sex marriages, even though such employees would be persistently and publicly flouting the religious teachings they would be hired to promote?"
And lastly, Stern asked, "Must religious social service agencies place children for adoption with same-sex couples?"
Speaking to Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Austin Nimocks, vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom and co-counsel for Proposition 8 supporters, believes the court shouldn't "impose a redefinition of marriage upon all Americans," and added that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right.
"Fundamental rights are those that are deeply rooted in our nation's history and traditions," Nimocks said. "Same-sex marriage is not deeply rooted in our nation's history and traditions."
Kamala Harris, the first woman elected to serve as attorney general in California, told Crowley that, in her opinion, "The U.S. Supreme Court, since the 1880s, has described marriage as a fundamental right." And it is included in the "fundamental notions of freedom, justice and liberty."
According to Harris, who's going against California voters' decision, she believes the case "is a matter of equal protection under the law." She added that she is "absolutely against a ban on same-sex marriage" because the ban is "simply unconstitutional."
Nimocks countered by adding, "When we're talking about Proposition 8, we're talking about Californians going to the ballot box twice, in a nine-year period, and voting to uphold marriage between one man and one woman. And that's our most fundamental right in this country: the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process."
"If Californians want same-sex marriage, they have the right and should have the right to achieve that political result," Nimocks said. "We don't need the Supreme Court to dictate that to all 50 states."