A bill that would protect clergy members and others who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies from being required to perform those duties if it conflicts with the officiant’s religious beliefs passed the full Senate today by a vote of 39-6.
SB 788, authored by Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, would not only protect officiants who are authorized by law to solemnize a marriage, it would also shield churches from being required to participate in ceremonies that might conflict for religious reasons.
“The provisions of SB 788 extend distinct protections to those who could otherwise be forced to perform duties that may directly conflict with the beliefs of the individual clergy or religious organization,” said Newberry. “This is not a bill targeted at any specific group; it simply protects the rights of individuals to freely exercise religious beliefs. It allows for the protection of those pastors and protection of those churches to be able to go out and do what they feel is so deeply needed in a way that does not violate their deeply religious beliefs.”
Newberry says SB 788 would address certain loopholes in the law that many pastors and ministers have expressed concern about and would lay the foundation to protect the religious liberties of Oklahoma clergy and religious organizations in the event the nation passes a law requiring it in the future.
“This bill wouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking marriage services, but it will protect those ministers, pastors and other religious figures who don’t want to be forced by the law to perform a marriage or services that may not align with their religious principles,” said Newberry. “This legislation sends our pastors and churches a strong message, letting them know that we not only believe in their religious freedoms and beliefs, but they should have free exercise thereof.”
SB 788 is now headed to the House.