Guarding freedom of beliefs

In West Virginia, Republicans and Democrats could teach cats and dogs something about doing battle. On many issues, adherents of the two parties differ greatly.

But not on basic human rights, such as not being forced by the government to do something that goes against one’s religious beliefs.

Last week, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill protecting members of the clergy from having to perform marriages that go against “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The vote was 90-5.

At one point, a Charleston lawmaker argued such protection is not needed. The First Amendment already covers the matter, he said.

Many Americans probably thought that was the case. But elsewhere in the nation, there is enormous pressure for the clergy to perform marriages that go against their faiths’ teachings. One city in Idaho actually passed an ordinance stating that any clergy refusing to marry two gay people could be sent to jail.

Good for the House. State senators should follow suit — and send the clear message the Legislature’s action is not intended to penalize people for their beliefs or lifestyles, but rather, to ensure no one in the clergy is forced to go against his or her faith.

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