Amid a barrage of slanted reporting, a smart, helpful take on religious freedom legislation

Missouri. Georgia. North Carolina. Mississippi. Tennessee. Louisiana. 

Those are just a half-dozen of the states where recent legislation pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom has produced high-profile debates.

As any casual reader of GetReligion knows, much of the major media coverage has been incomplete and slanted (read: left leaning), with a few notable exceptions:

Most of our critiques focus on easy-to-spot crimes: The failure to give both sides a voice. The bias that using scare quotes shows. The editorialization that occurs via framing. 

Journalism 101 stuff, in other words.

So many news organizations struggle to cover this subject matter at even a basic level (much less provide context that includes, say, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Given that low bar, we are even more surprised when we come across a story that truly advances the topic in an insightful way.

Enter religion writer Kelsey Dallas of the Deseret News National:

Dallas' in-depth piece on "The tensions threatening the future of religious freedom law" is a smart, helpful take. If you want to understand the big picture of what's happening in state legislatures, check out her story:

Last year, the four Supreme Court justices who dissented in the landmark rulinglegalizing same-sex marriage predicted an unsettled future for people on both sides of the issue.
They argued that the court's decision would create, rather than resolve, conflict because it redefined marriage without addressing the implications for religious freedom. They suggested that the battle was only beginning both for faith groups who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds and members of the LGBT community who demand equal protection under the law.
In the 10 months since the dissenting justices issued their warning, more than 100 religious freedom bills have been filed in state legislatures. The measures respond to the longstanding tension between same-sex marriage and conscience rights by proposing protections for faith leaders, religious organizations or small-business owners who say serving same-sex couples would force them to violate their beliefs.
Although the legislative response to the court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges has been swift, the fallout will take years to resolve, according to legal experts, as lawmakers and advocates evolve from a winner-take-all approach to one of compromise.
"We need more people in the middle helping us to be judicious about what are the real risks to religious beliefs and what are not real," said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a director of the Family Law and Policy Program at the University of Illinois College of Law.

The parallels between the current legislation and what happened after the Supreme Court legalized abortion are particularly intriguing:

These bills are a natural reaction to the surge of cultural change sparked by the Supreme Court's ruling in June, said Ryan Anderson, who regularly writes on religious freedom legislation as a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Many state-level protection bills were also proposed in the aftermath of the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion across the country.
"Roe v. Wade created the right to abortion, but also the right not to perform an abortion or pay for an abortion," said Anderson, whose book, "Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom," was published in August 2015.
After the Supreme Court's ruling, every state but Alabama, New Hampshire and Vermont eventually passed laws creating conscience protections for health care providers who object to abortion.
State-level legislation helps the people who oppose the Supreme Court's rulings on these contentious issues accept the change, Wilson noted.
"Abortion conscience clauses had a tempering effect at the time," she said. "They were important ways to move forward with everyone living together in peace."
However, the potential impact of the same-sex marriage ruling is much broader than the impact of Roe v. Wade, which threatened the licenses or tax status of religiously affiliated health care providers who refused to participate in the procedure, she explained.
Marriage law affects a much larger group of individuals and businesses, complicating efforts to use religious freedom bills to temper what some view as a disturbing cultural shift. Additionally, the states considering these laws have faced unexpected backlash from national corporations and even other states.
"Here you have the (legal ramifications of Roe v. Wade) on steroids," Wilson said.

Lest the Deseret News accuse me of copyright infringement, I'll avoid copying and pasting the rest of the piece.

But it's worth your time. 

Read it all.

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