Florida Clergy Lawsuits Abortion Ban Over Religious Freedom

On Monday, clergy from five different religions filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, claiming that a new law criminalizing the majority of abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy violates their rights to religious freedom. The five distinct cases, filed in Miami-Dade County, say that the state’s ban limits their capacity to counsel congregants about abortion in accordance with their religions because Florida law forbids counselling or inciting a crime. tmsnrt.rs/3BBEdIr

Three rabbis, a reverend from the United Church of Christ, a minister from the Unitarian Universalist Church, a priest from the Episcopal Church, and a Buddhist lama are the plaintiffs. They urged the court to rule that Florida and American constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and religion are violated by the state’s abortion statute. They also assert that the abortion prohibition violates a Florida law protecting religious liberty, which forbids the state from “substantially burdening” the practise of religion absent a compelling state interest that cannot be served by less stringent measures.

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Requests for comment on the lawsuits were not immediately answered by a representative for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The lawsuits are “extremely vital,” according to Marci Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who is the plaintiffs’ attorney, to confront the conflict between abortion limits and religious freedom. A lawsuit contesting the abortion law has also been brought by a Florida synagogue. The court hearing that matter is a distinct state court.

The Florida law, which with limited exceptions forbids abortions beyond 15 weeks, became effective on July 1. Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision striking down the right to abortion statewide, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the measure in April. A judge’s last month decision that the state prohibition violates Florida’s constitution’s guarantees of private rights is currently up for review. Those protections, according to the state’s high court, safeguard the right to an abortion. (Reporting from Washington by Jacqueline Thomsen David Bario and David Gregorio edited the text.

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