NEW YORK — In the wake of efforts to weaponize the First Amendment in order to cloak discrimination in the mantle of freedom of religion, Lambda Legal on Monday launched a national billboard campaign “No Excuse” underscoring that “religious freedom is no excuse for discrimination.” The first set of billboards were unveiled today at high-traffic locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
“By placing these billboards on some of the busiest streets in some of the country’s biggest cities, we want to start a national conversation among decent, fair-minded people who don’t think religion should be used to bully our neighbors,” said Lambda Legal Director of Marketing and Editorial Angelo Ragaza. “We want to remind our communities, especially in this political climate, that there is a culture war being waged by evangelical extremists with LGBT people in its crosshairs. We’re on the front lines, fighting efforts to enshrine discrimination into law. We must be more vigilant than ever.”
“We are seeing an alarming increase in extreme religion-based arguments claiming all sorts of people and businesses are exempt from the rules protecting everyone from discrimination, making those arguments into weapons in a crusade against the LGBTQ community,” said Jenny Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal. “Freedom of religion is a core constitutional value of this country but that freedom isn’t, and has never been, a license to harm other people. It 100 percent guarantees freedom of belief, but not freedom to discriminate against others when conducting a business, providing a government function, or otherwise engaging with the general public.” Pizer added.
Lambda Legal has been fighting the misuse of religion as a license to discriminate by taking legal action and through public education and policy analysis for years, from its 2003 victory about civil rights safeguards when faith-based organizations receive taxpayer dollars, to its landmark 2008 victory in Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Medical Care Group, on behalf of a lesbian denied infertility treatment, and its current work on behalf of a same-sex couple in Texas prevented from applying to serve as foster parents and another same-sex couple denied a room at a Hawai`i bed and breakfast. Also, Lambda Legal has filed friend-of-the court briefs in several high-profile religious discrimination cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, and others. Lambda Legal has also worked to oppose efforts in multiple locations to enact legislation granting businesses license to discriminate based on religion, including efforts in Arizona, Indiana and Mississippi.
The billboards went live at midnight on Monday and will be displayed until October 28.
For more information on Lambda Legal’s work against a religious license to discriminate, go here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/issues/religious-exemptions.
Press release from Lambda Legalby