2012-JAN-24: New Hampshire legislative committee studies bill to protect people who want to violate human rights legislation:
The House Judiciary Committee considered bill HB 1264 titled: "Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Marriage." 1
The bill states:
"457:37-a: Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Marriage. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person, including a business owner or employee thereof, shall be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request is related to the solemnization, celebration, or promotion of a marriage and providing such
services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges would be a violation of the
person’s conscience or religious faith. A person’s refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such
In 2009, the legislature had passed a law that allowed loving committed same-sex couples to marry. The law contained the standard clause that gave clergy and congregations immunity from human rights legislation in the event that they wanted to refuse to marry such couples. However, many religious and social conservatives considered this provision to be inadequate. There are many individuals and companies who provide goods and services to couples who planned to marry. This includes the rental of halls for wedding receptions, and the services of wedding photographers, of bakers that make wedding cakes, of stores that sell wedding dresses, of stores that rent tuxedos, professionals who provide pre-marital counseling, etc. If this bill had become law, individuals and businesses would be given immunity from being charged under existing human rights legislation if they refuse -- because of their religious beliefs or conscience -- to provide services to same-sex couples that they normally supply to the public. It would take effect on 2013-JAN-01.
Although the bill was written to allow individuals and companies to discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples, it was so broadly worded that it would have protected racists, anti-semites, other religists (persons bigoted towards persons of other religions) and other groups. More details.
2011 & 2012: USA: Objections by the Roman Catholic Church concerning their employees' birth control choices:
One section of the National Academy of Sciences is the Institute of Medicine. The latter is a type of think tank that advises the federal government on issues of medical care, research and education as they affect the public. They found that about 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unexpected and unplanned. Such pregnancies are even more common among young people. About 42% of unintended pregnancies are terminated by abortion. The Institute recommended that almost all employees who have health insurance plans be given access to birth control medication, devices and procedures without copays. The Institute expected that this would sharply increase access to birth control, reduce the rate of unexpected pregnancies, lower the abortion rate, and improve the physical and emotional health of many women.
Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a directive in 2011-AUG to be effective in 2012-AUG. The mandate requires that most health insurance plans allow employees to choose whether or not to use birth control without copays. Religious institutions themselves who employ only their own members, were exempt from the directive. But religiously affiliated hospitals, universities, other schools, agencies, counseling services, etc. who employ people of diverse religious affiliation -- and none -- were included in the directive, as are secular employers.
The Catholic Church and its many affiliated employers objected. They expected that if some of their employees chose to use birth control, then the Church-affiliated employer would have to pay higher premiums on their behalf. In effect, the religiously-affiliated employer would be paying for the employee's birth control. It is church policy that to contracept is potentially a mortal sin that might negatively affect the user's eternal destiny. The Church is very much opposed to contraception. The HHS offered a compromise in which the insurance company would charge the same premium irrespective of whether the employee personally chose or rejected the use of birth control. They also delayed the implementation of the directive by 12 months. These compromises did not satisfy the Church hierarchy. Dozens of religiously affiliated employers and some secular companies have sued the government in an attempt to receive an exemption to the mandate.
The bishops of the Catholic Church organized a Fortnight for Freedom campaign. It promoted the concepts that:
The Church should have the religious freedom and liberty to prevent their employees from obtaining birth control medication, devices and procedures as part of their insurance with no copays.
The employees should not have the religious freedom and liberty to choose whether to contracept without copays.
The conflict thus is over which group is allowed to have religious freedom -- employers or employees. Both cannot win.
Contraception use is high among Catholic women: some 98% have used a method forbidden by their church at some time during their lifetime and 70% are currently using a method. 3
2012-APR: Kansas: Senate Bill 142, the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, is passed by the House:
This bill is a substitute for an earlier House Bill 2260. Both bills would allow companies, groups and individuals to refuse to provide goods and/or services to engaged same-sex couples in connection with their marriages. Wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, etc. whose religious beliefs oppose same-sex marriages would be the main beneficiaries of this bill.
Senate Bill 142 was passed easily by a 91 to 33 vote in the House during 2012-APR. Supporters believe that it was needed to prevent the government from forcing a person to violate their religious beliefs. Opponents say it would invite discrimination and would invalidate human rights ordinances and legislation. At the time, Holly Weatherford, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, said,
"We cannot allow the use of religion to discriminate and call it religious freedom. We must push back."
The bill was supported by the admniistration of Gov. Sam Brownback (R), the Kansas Catholic Conference, and Concerned Women for America of Kansas. It was opposed by officials of the City of Lawrence, the Kansas Equality Coalition and the state chapter of the National Organization for Women. 6
"Roman" wrote an article in The Collegian, directed to the people at Kansas State University, saying:
"SB142 would void all non-discrimination ordinances that exist in towns, organizations and universities all across Kansas. Senate Bill 142 undermines our basic human dignity and as a result will negatively impact our ability to grow and prosper as an institution of higher education." 7
The bill "... didn't gain traction in the Senate. It was never signed into law by the Governor. A similar bill was passed by the House during 2014.
2012-JUN-22: Georgia: Student dismissal over counseling gays upheld by court:
Jennifer Keeton, a conservative Christian, was enrolled in the Counselor Education Program at Agusta State University, in Georgia. According to a ruling by a federal court judge, Jennifer would not "condone the propriety of homosexual relations or a homosexual identity in a counseling session." She expressed her opinions both inside and outside the classroom. These views were incompatible with the professional ethical standards set forth by the American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association. Faculty members told her that she couldn't graduate without first completing a remedial plan which included diversity workshops, reading articles about counseling LGBT students, and submitting monthly reports on what she had learned. She initially agreed to take the course, but later withdrew her consent. She wrote: "
"I really want to stay in the program, but I don’t want to have to attend all the events about what I think is not moral behavior, and then write reflections on them that don’t meet your standards because I haven’t changed my views or beliefs… My biblical views won’t change."
She initiated a lawsuit in federal District Court seeking a court order that would allow her to stay in the program without requiring to complete the remedial plan. With the help of the Alliance Defense Fund, an evangelical Christian legal defense fund, she alledged that her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated. 4
J. Randal Hall, the District Court judge, dismissed Keeton's claim, stating:
"The remediation plan imposed on Keeton pursuant to those policies placed limits on her speech and burdened her religious beliefs, but, as the allegations show, the plan was motivated by a legitimate pedagogical interest in cultivating a professional demeanor and concern that she might prove unreceptive to certain issues and openly judge her clients. The allegations show, in sum, that while Keeton was motivated by her particular religious beliefs, defendants were not." 4,5