"Religious freedom" changing from freedom of
beliefs to freedom to hate and discriminate
2014: Part 1:
Examples from Kansas of the new
meaning of "religious
by religious conservatives on other groups.
2014-FEB-05: Kansas House passes religious a "freedom to discriminate bill" - House bill 2453:
This bill is called the "Religious Freedom Act of 2014." It is the reincarnation of an earlier "freedom to discriminate" bill for Kansas, which was defeated by the Senate during 2012.
In 2014. the Kansas House passed a second version of a bill to give individuals, groups, and businesses the ability to discriminate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community with impunity.
The vote was 72 to 49 in favor. The bill was then sent to the Senate for a vote.
The Wichita Eagle summarizes the bill as follows:
"Supporters describe it as a religious freedom measure. Opponents contend it will encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians." 1
The motivation for the bill appears to be a concern by many members of the Republican Party, and by other social & political conservatives. It is that federal courts might soon declare the Kansas Constitution's clause that bans same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Many federal District Court judges have ruled that similar clauses in the constitutions of other states clearly violate the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All or essentially all constitutional experts who are not religious conservatives believe that whenever a conflict exists between the federal and a state constitution, the former rules.
Federal District Court Judges have recently declared same-sex marriages (SSMs) to be legal in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia. Further, there are over a dozen similar federal lawsuits in other states where the District Court judges have yet to issue a ruling. Since the ban on SSMs in Kansas may soon fall, many Kansas conservatives want to pass legislation to permit fellow believers to legally discriminating against the LGBT community with impunity by refusing to provide goods and services for their marriages.
Analyzing the bill from a Christian perspective:
No media outlet that we have observed has fully analyzed this bill from a Christian perspective. If they did, they would realize that the bill violates the Ethic of Reciprocity -- commonly called the Golden Rule. It is found in two Gospels in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) where Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) is reported as saying:
- Matthew 7:12: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." King James Version.
- Luke 6:31: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." King James Version.
When applied to a store owner/potential customer situation, the Golden Rule requires that just as the store owner would wish to be served when she or he enters another store, so should the owner treat their potential customers fairly by serving them with the requested goods or services.
Comments by House members:
During the debate, Rep. Charles Macheers (R) -- the sponsor of the bill -- made a most remarkable statement, implying that his bill would prevent discrimination. He said:
"Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill. There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that."
He said that the bill would put Kansas "... on the right side of history."
Macheers appears to be ignoring the basic intent of the bill: to allow religious conservatives to discriminate against the LGBT community. His sole concern is whether fellow believers are free to discriminate on religious grounds.
If passed, the bill would allow discrimination in both the public and private sectors. Civil servants will be able to refuse to sell marriage licenses to same-sex couples, for example. However someone in the government office would be expected to serve the couple. How this would work in some rural areas where there is only one employee in a state office is unclear.
At least some Republicans said that the bill does not discriminate against the LGBT community. They have cited a hypothetical case where a lesbian photographer would be able to refuse to provide services to a Roman Catholic couple because of their church's stance against SSM. Apparently, they feel that as long as heterosexuals and the LGBT community can both use the bill to discriminate against each other, then the bill is ethical and moral.
Rep. Barbara Bollier, (R) was one of the few Republicans to vote against the bill. She said:
"I do not believe it is ever on the right side of history to be allowed to discriminate against people. Enough said."
Rep. Louis Ruiz, (D) is Latino, and has experienced discrimination because of his skin color. He said that the bill allows discrimination:
"... whether we want to admit that or not. ... When you look at the demographics of people here, some people don’t know what discrimination is because they’ve never experienced it."
Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, (R) rejected a comparison of this bill to a hypothetical bill that would allow someone to discriminate against interracial couples based on religious beliefs. He said:
"Race is a protected class under discrimination laws. Sexual orientation is not."
Comments by organizations and members of the public:
- Holly Weatherford, spokesperson for the Kansas and Western Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She said the Kansas bill noted that
"Kansas would be the first state to legalize discrimination on the part of employees — government employees."
- Most of the 776 comments to the Wichita Eagle article were opposed to the bill. Some notable postings:
- Randy Gordon commented on Macheers' statement:
"Do they have any brains? They say something like this while passing laws that specifically discriminate against gays! How does serving gay people take away a person's beliefs? If you are Christian, don't you serve people of other religions even though you don't believe these religions? Yes, you do and there are [human rights] laws that protect people from being discriminated against because of religion. I am sure it would be against the law to discriminate when it comes to housing if you are Christian! If people are going to do business, they should be able to follow certain standards! That is why [anti-] discrimination laws are passed, because the community decides that all people will be treated equal! You can not make a black person sit in the back of the bus! It is especially important for services that pertain to our government be given to all people equally! If a business does not want to serve everyone equal, then they shouldn't do business at all! It is ridiculous passing a law that specifically allows discrimination of gay people! That is what we call hate and if any Christian can not learn how to treat others like Christ did, then why bother calling yourselves Christians. Who are you kidding. Christ said " Ye who are without sin, cast the first stone.." Christ sat with the prostitutes. He conversed with all those that others wouldn't go near. I think some of these people should take a good long look at who Christ really was!"
- Rachel Newell
"Discrimination (or discernment) is a thought process we all use every day to determine what 'is' or 'isn't' about a thing. It's actually legal to think like that. It's a freedom we hold dearly - to be able to discern for ourselves what is appropriate in a particular situation. This bill protects business owners from lawsuits by individuals who are outrageously indignant about someone else's discernment. It doesn't compel people to act one way or another. If a business owner chooses to do business with one person and not another, that is their right. You may be offended, I may be offended... but its THEIR business entity. It is not your business, and it is not your right to tell them how to transact their business. You cannot legislate everyone's discernment... well, I suppose you can, but you and I don't want to live in that kind of a military state."
- Shawn M Dougherty wrote:
"So it's OK for businesses to have signs that say, 'No blacks, gays, or hispanics?' You need a time machine to travel back to the 50's."
- Todd Buffington wrote:
"Trying to put an end to 'discrimination' based on religious beliefs... by LEGALIZING DISCRIMINATION?! That's some logic. Way to take Kansas back to the 1960s, although that's probably where this idiot wants to take it."
- John Pack Lambert wrote:
"This is a great bill. It is needed to protect people from being forced to violate their religion."
- Jope McClure wrote in response to John Lambert:
"So did the National Socialists in [Germany during] 1933 when they enacted similar laws." 1
2014-FEB-19: Kansas Senate rejects the "freedom to discriminate bill" - House bill 2453:
For the third time in three consecutive years, after the Kansas House passed the freedom to discriminate bill with an overwhelming vote, the Senate has killed the bill.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, (R) said:
"We’re not going to work the bill. House Bill 2453 is kaput." 2
Senate President Susan Wagle (R) indicated that most Republican Senators are not in favor of the bill. She said:
"A strong majority of my members support laws that define traditional marriage. However, my members also don't condone discrimination."
What are the chances that the House will try a fourth time to pass a bill like this one?
This topic is continued in the next essay
with information of a similar bill in Tennessee
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Kansas House passes bill allowing service refusal to gay couples," Wichita Eagle, 2014-FEB-12 at: http://www.kansascity.com/
- "Kansas Senate leaders kill bill allowing service refusal to same-sex couples," Wichita Eagle, 2014-FEB-18, at: http://www.kansascity.com/
- "Foes of gay marrage scramble after setback," Idaho Press, 2014-FEB-16, at: http://www.idahopress.com/
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2014-FEB-21
Latest update: 2014-FEB-21
Author: B.A. Robinson