By RACHEL ZOLL
NEW YORK (AP) - Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, religious conservatives are focusing on preserving their right to object. Their concerns are for the thousands of faith-based charities, colleges and hospitals that want to hire, fire, serve and set policy according to their religious beliefs, notably that gay relationships are morally wrong.
The Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidates are already campaigning on the issue. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is urging President Barack Obama and the nation’s governors “to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”
The religious liberty fight isn’t about what happens inside the sanctuary. First Amendment protections for worship and clergy are clear. Potential conflicts could arise, however, over religious organizations with some business in the public arena. That category ranges from small religious associations that rent reception halls to the public, to the nation’s massive network of faith-based social service agencies that receive millions of dollars in government grants. Some groups, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also want protections for individual business owners who consider it immoral to provide benefits for the same-sex spouse of an employee or cater gay weddings.