religious freedom

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Arkansas Governor Won’t Sign Bill Without Changes

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

ArkansasLots of news out of Arkansas yesterday after the legislature sent a right to discriminate bill to the Governor’s desk:

Governor Refuses to Sign Bill: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday that he would not sign the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) as it was presented to him by the legislature on Tuesday, urging the legislature to recall the bill and tweak it so that it better mirrors the narrower federal bill. full story

Governor’s Son Publically Opposed Bill: The Governor revealed that his son Seth Hutchinson publicly denounced his plans to sign the bill, signing a petition. full story

Little Rock Nine Opposed: In a symbolic move, two members of the Little Rock Nine — Carlotta Walls Lanier and Ernie Green have voiced their opposition to Arkansas’ H.B. 1228. full story

Activists Rally for Changes: Hundreds of LGBT rights activists rallied for changes to the bill. full story

Starnes Hates on Walmart: Anti gay commentator Todd Starnes tweeted that Walmart, which opposed the law, is “the home of low prices and no values” and called for a boycott. full story

Senate Approves Amended Bill: The Arkansas Senate on Wednesday night approved transmitting two amended existing bills to the House that add language that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. full story

Jake Tapper Interviews Bill Author: Watch this guy babble and deflect in some truly Pence-ian doublespeak and note how he repeatedly says “homosexual” rather than “gay.” full story

Indiana Passes Anti Gay Right to Discriminate Bill

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Indiana Governor Mike PenceA right to discriminate law just passed the Indiana legislature.

Melanie Nathan reports:

Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana) is being urged to veto SB 101, a piece of legislation that would be one of the most anti-LGBT laws in the nation. The legislation allows individuals to ignore any law they deem to conflict with their religious beliefs. A broad coalition of groups in Indiana is against the proposed law including civil rights and faith leaders, small business owners and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

A campaign has been launched to ask Governor Mike Pence to veto the bill:

“As a seminary graduate, this bill is deeply offensive,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. “The fact that religion is being used as a smokescreen for deeply hateful and vile sentiments by right-wing extremists, and then cemented into law, is not just un-Christian – it’s un-American.”

As activist Scott Wooledge puts it: “I’ve engaged in the battles against these bill in Arkansas, Arizona, and Tennessee in 2011. My message to those pushing these regressive, reactionary “religious freedom” laws is we will follow you to whatever state you try this and we will fight you aggressively. And my message to our allies and friends is we will pressure to defend your LGBT friends’ and workers’ right to live their lives free of discrimination.”

Scott McCorkle, CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud of Indianapolis, has also said SB 101 threatens future growth in Indiana. “Our success is fundamentally based on our ability to attract and retain the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees…” The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, engine maker Cummins, health-care provider Eskenazi Health and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. have also voiced concerns about SB 101’s impact on their businesses.

The Governor doesn’t seem inclined to listen:

Indiana Governor Mike Pence released a statement following the House passage yesterday of SB 101, a sweeping bill that would allow Indiana business owners to refuse service to customers based on religious beliefs.

Said Pence: “The legislation, SB 101, is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact. I strongly support the legislation and applaud the members of the General Assembly for their work on this important issue. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”

Dark days in Indiana – how soon will the first case test this new discriminatory law?

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Discrimination is Not Religious Freedom

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Reverend Irene MonroeA movement is afoot in state legislatures across the country to disenfranchise LGBTQ Americans. There are a surprisingly number of bills being introduced in state legislative session, which outrightly sanction and enforce LGBTQ discrimination. These bills are called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA), but don’t be fooled. These lawmakers are looking to codify LGBTQ discrimination.

This week the Georgia Senate, with a vote of 37-15, approved controversial RFRA (House Bill 1023). The bill doesn’t want the state’s Christian religious conservatives, fundamentalists and evangelicals to “substantially burden” their personal religious practices and beliefs. What, you may ask, could possibly be such a burden to Christians in Georgia that a state law is necessitated? Burden, according the bill, is defined as:

“‘Burden’ means any government action or implementation or application of any law, including, but not limited to, state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations, and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person’s exercise of religion, including, but not limited to, withholding benefits, assessing criminal, civil, or administrative penalties, and exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities.”

But let’s be clear, the only religious folk lawmakers hope to protect from a “substantially burden” is Christians. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christian Georgians don’t merit protection. As a matter-of-fact, these demographic groups — along with atheists and LGBTQs — can easily be subject to egregious forms of discrimination, bigotry and hate crimes under the guise of religion.

Authored By Reverend Irene Monroe – See the Full Story at SDGLN

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“Religious Exemption” is Really “Religious Privilege”

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Sue O'ConnellWe have been oh so careful. How many times have we assured religious leaders that marriage equality will not mean that Catholic priests will have to start performing marriages between two lesbians? How many times have we bit our lip when a religious school has fired a gay person because he didn’t set the correct example? How many times have we crafted laws to clearly allow religious organizations an out — a way to circumvent the law because of their strongly held anti-gay religious beliefs?

We were careful because the LGBT community understood the tensions between religion and being LGB or T. Many of us are — or were — religious people. Many of us have been rejected by our faith leaders. Many of us have been rejected by our families because of their religious faith.

We grew a tolerance to the anti-gay parts of our religion, or we found a more accepting faith. We accepted our Catholic grandmother’s anti-gay sentiment as “religious conviction” even though she seemed supportive of our brother’s divorce.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rewarded our thoughtfulness with a slap.

Authored By Sue O’Connell – See the Full Story at The Dallas Voice

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The Great Religious Secession

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Church…I am someone who believes that religious liberty is the country’s founding freedom, the idea that made America possible. I am also a homosexual atheist, so religious conservatives may not want my advice. I’ll give it to them anyway. Culturally conservative Christians are taking a pronounced turn toward social secession: asserting both the right and the intent to sequester themselves from secular culture and norms, including the norm of nondiscrimination. This is not a good idea. When religion isolates itself from secular society, both sides lose, but religion loses more.

Over the decades, religious traditionalists’ engagement with American secular life has waxed and waned. After the public-relations disaster of the Scopes evolution trial in the 1920s, many conservative Christians recoiled from politics, only to come out swinging in the 1970s, when the Moral Majority and other elements of what came to be called the religious right burst onto the scene. If you believe in cultural cycles, perhaps we’re due for another withdrawal. Certainly, the breakthrough of gay marriage has fed disillusionment and bewilderment. “I suspect the initial reaction among evangelicals is going to be retreat and hope to be left alone,” Maggie Gallagher, a prominent gay-marriage opponent, recently told The Huffington Post.

Still, the desire to be left alone takes on a pretty aggressive cast when it involves slamming the door of a commercial enterprise on people you don’t approve of. The idea that serving as a vendor for, say, a gay commitment ceremony is tantamount to “endorsing” homosexuality, as the new religious-liberty advocates now assert, is a far-reaching proposition, one with few apparent outer boundaries in a densely interwoven mercantile society. It suggests a hair-trigger defensiveness about religious identity that would have seemed odd just a few years ago. As far as I know, during the divorce revolution it never occurred to, say, Catholic bakers to tell remarrying customers, “Your so-called second marriage is a lie, so take your business elsewhere.” That would have seemed not so much principled as bizarre.

Authored By Jonathan Rauch – See the Full Story at The Atlantic

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USA, Oregon: First Ad Released to Fight Anti Gay Ballot Measure

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Kathleen SaadatOregon United for Marriage released their first ad to fight a pending “religious freedom” ballot initiative.

The Advocate reports:

Similar in tone and scope to Arizona’s vetoed “license to discriminate” bill and other “religious freedom” protection laws recently enacted in Mississippi and Tennessee, Oregon’s Initiative Petition 52 specifically mentions same-sex marriages and civil unions, whereas laws in other states only alluded to the target audience that would be discriminated against. The bill would essentially create a broad, categorical exemption to the state’s existing nondiscrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and a number of other characteristics…

[OUFM] came out swinging today with its first TV ad, slated to air across the state in opposition to the “license to discriminate” initiative. Featuring renowned civil rights activist Kathleen Saadat, the 30-second spot compares Oregon’s Initiative Petition 52 to Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and similarly racist policies that allowed employers to hire only white people, placing infamous signs reading “Whites Only.”

Hopefully they won’t be able to gather enough signatures to get it on te ballot in the first place.

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Flipping the Script – Why the UCC Lawsuit Could Change Everything

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

UCC LogoIn recent years, the religious and political right in this country has weaponized the Constitution. From bans on gay marriage to the right to own an assault rifle without a background check, the First and Second Amendments, in particular, have been used as a battering ram against equality, fairness and public safety.

You cannot make peace if you do not even know you are in a war, and people of faith and conscience in this country need to realize that the very rights that the Constitution protects are under siege by those who abuse and misuse constitutional guarantees.

This why what the United Church of Christ, my own denomination, has just done matters so much at so many levels. The UCC has taken a bold step in engaging this struggle, right at the heart of the abuse of religious freedom. This church just filed a landmark lawsuit against North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage, arguing that the state’s marriage laws violate the First Amendment rights of clergy and the principle of “free exercise of religion.”

Authored By Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite – See the Full Story at the Huffington Post

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Breaking: United Church of Christ Files Lawsuit Against North Carolina’s Marriage Equality Ban

Monday, April 28th, 2014

North Carolina MapThis just in – a gay-friendly church has filed a lawsuit in North Carolina saying that the ban on marriage equality violates its religious freedom.

The Washington Blade reports:

The United Church of Christ and a group of clergy and same-sex couples on Monday filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The lawsuit — which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina — argues the marriage amendment violates the religious beliefs of denominations and congregants who support the recognition of gay nuptials and clergy who want to perform them. Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, president of the United Church of Christ, and Rev. Nancy Kraft of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Charlotte are among the plaintiffs who attended a Charlotte press conference.

“As a senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation,” said Rev. Joe Hoffman of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, who is a plaintiff along with Diane Ansley and Cathy McGaughey, two of his congregants who have been together for 14 years. “My denomination — the United Church of Christ — authorizes me to perform these ceremonies, but Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right.”

It seems like a great argument – after all, whose religious freedom is more infringed, for-profit business owners who must follow the law in marriage equality states, or actual pastors and ministers who are forbidden from marrying same sex couples in anti-gay marriage state?

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USA, Oregon: Attorney General Accepts “Discrimination” Wording for Right to Discriminate Initiative

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Oregon Gay MarriageOregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum agreed with proponents of marriage equality that a proposed ballot initiative that would allow wedding vendors to refuse service to same sex couples should include the word discrimination.

Towleroad.com reports:

Proponents had avoided ballot measure language that mentioned the word ‘discrimination’ in their ‘Protect Religious Freedom Initiative’. Rosenblum disagreed, issuing a ballot title that reads:

“Religious belief” exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for refusing services, other, for same-sex ceremonies, “arrangements”

This was the language sought by opponents of the ballot measure such as Oregon United for Marriage as it “makes clear this measure creates exemptions to non-discrimination laws.”

It seems likely that fewer people will sign a petition that clearly states what the initiative would do. Maybe this thing won’t make the ballot, after all.

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Time to End “Swiss Cheese” Equality

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Gay RightsFollowing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of a bill aimed at allowing businesses and service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people, it’s time for those of us pushing back on efforts to misuse religious liberty as a license to discriminate to realize that the momentum is on our side.

First, some background. As marriage for same-sex couples becomes a reality in more states, the go-to “Plan B” for opponents of LGBT equality has been to support measures that purport to protect religious liberty, but really exist to give a license to discriminate against LGBT people. In this distortion of religious liberty, a failure to provide employers and service providers with special rights to break non-discrimination laws somehow represents an attack on religious freedom.

This strategy is not new or unique to LGBT people. It is something that opponents of civil rights — for African-Americans, women, and others — have repeatedly turned to throughout history, particularly when it becomes clear they can no longer defeat, outright, the underlying civil rights gains of a particular movement. These efforts become a way to undermine and rollback gains, creating a kind of “Swiss cheese” equality. Sure the rights exist, but with a lot of holes.

Authored By Ian Thompson – See the Full Story at The Advocate

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