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Florida Clergy Say State Abortion Bans Violate Religious Freedom in New Lawsuits

Florida Clergy Say State Abortion Bans Violate Religious Freedom in New Lawsuits

Clergy members from five different religions sued the state of Florida on Monday over the new law criminalizing most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying the ban violates Constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom rights.

The five separate lawsuits were filed in Miami-Dade County and claim the state’s ban “curtails the clergy members’ ability to counsel congregants about abortion in accordance with their faiths.” Florida law prohibits counseling or encouraging a crime, which abortion has become statewide after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the new restrictive bill into law. The law was temporarily blocked and then unblocked on the same day in a confusing sequence of events that left both clinics and patients frustrated and angry, with many of the latter left without options once the laws went into effect.

 (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The plaintiffs–three rabbis, a United Church of Christ reverend, a Unitarian Universalist minister, an Episcopal Church priest, and a Buddhist lama.–asked the court to declare that the state’s abortion law violates Florida and U.S. constitutional protections for freedom of speech and religion.

 

A Florida synagogue has also filed a lawsuit challenging the abortion law in a pending case in a different state court.

The seven plaintiffs also claim the abortion ban violates a Florida religious freedom law that prohibits the government from “substantially burdening” the exercise of religion unless there is a “compelling state interest that cannot be met with fewer restrictions.”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement that her office will continue to defend the statute. An appeal is now pending over a judge’s ruling last month that the state ban violates the Florida constitution’s privacy rights guarantees. The state’s high court previously said those guarantees protect the right to abortion.

 

 

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