Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Republicans in Michigan are getting closer to providing citizens with a license to discriminate

Religious Freedom Restoration ActThe Michigan Legislature is using this typical lame-duck session, the period after elections, but before new members take office, to legalize discrimination. The Republican legislature is fearful that bigotry is under attack and they must stop the government from protecting certain groups from any discrimination invoked in God’s name. In doing so, the Michigan Republicans are providing a license to discriminate in the name of religion.

The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is the brainchild of House Speaker Jase Bolger, who is in his third and final term. Not wanting to waste his final two weeks in office, during committee testimony, Bolger stated, “I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom… I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.” Even though your home and church is exactly the place to practice your religion Bolger thinks that your personal faith should be used to discriminate against others living contrary to your faith.

Bolger added his bill would help protect Jewish butchers who were prohibited from following Kosher tenets, for example, or Christian pastors who were prohibited from feeding homeless residents due to local food safety rules. However, this bill was in direct response to a push by advocates of gay rights to expand protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons.

According to an ACLU of Michigan attorney, the RFRA could allow a landlord who was forced to rent to a single mother to sue their city on religious grounds.  Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s in other states have been used by pharmacists who then refuse to dispense birth control. State Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, said “I should not be forced to follow the religion of my pharmacist,” prior to a vote on the bill.

This bill is ripe with unintended consequences. It is so broadly written that an EMT could refuse emergency treatment based on someone’s sexual orientation. It would also permit a catholic school to refuse to hire a Muslim. A government employee could refuse service to someone who is divorced. The list of possible discrimination is endless.

Meanwhile, a companion bill that would have expanded Michigan’s civil rights acts to the LGBT community was declared dead after a committee couldn’t get enough votes to move the bills to the full House. The LGBT community still lacks protection against discrimination. Anyone can still be fired just for being gay. But as a member of the religious community stated, “No one from the LGBT community has ever had fire hoses turned on them by the police department, they have never had to drink out of an LGBT water fountain,” Pastor Stacy Swimp told the House committee that considered the measure. “There is no record of LGBT — homosexuals, lesbians—being forced to sit at the back of the bus in an LGBT section.”

Maybe not. But they have been fired, beaten to death, refused the right to adopt children, been denied the right to be with their ill partner in the hospital, had property taken from them by a deceased partner’s family, and refused service in local businesses. Somehow, in some twisted logic, wanting to live with dignity is an affront to religious freedom. Michigan’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has passed the house and bigots are just a little closer to having this law behind them. It now moves to the Republican controlled Senate, and then can be signed into law by the Republican Governor.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Wendy Cooper is an attorney in Michigan. She also writes for The Epoch Times and has written articles for the American Bar Association Health Care section and the Ann Arbor News. She can be reached at her Facebook page or on Twitter @WendyBCooper

5 COMMENTS

  1. The ultimate irony is that these religious groups depend on the very rights and protections they say are guaranteed them by the Constitution to deny others the very rights and protections guaranteed them by that same Constitution.

    One wonders what prevents the courts from establishing that people, on the basis of their religious convictions, are not free to violate the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of others? That the rights of others as guaranteed by the Constitution trump the “right” to deny them those rights as a free exercise of one’s religious beliefs?

    The Constitution, after all, is not a religious but a secular document. And the society it sought to underpin was not intended to be a religious but a secular society. One does not have to dig deep into the thinking of those whom we variously reference as “The Founders” to find that most of them had a healthy and understandable skepticism if not suspicion of the intentions of organized, institutional religion.

  2. The Bible ( Torah) was written as a code to govern civic behavior, in order to consolidate a tribal society. And time passed, dissension arose as to how to interpret its meaning, in order to gain advantage in favor of its protagonists. The same types of arguments are expressed today, as politicians and activists argue over interpreting the vagaries of the U. S. Constitution. All contrived to gain power and advantage, consistently leaving behind the specific intention of separating religious faith from secular law. The purpose of that separation was to avoid the contradictions between institutional faith and secular law, not to restrict the practicing of faith. And as anyone can see for themselves, the power of religious interests are doing quite well in our legislatures. However, the purposes of these religious groups are intent on violating the freedoms and privileges of which mainstream citizens take for granted. In the name of freedom? What Irony…………….

    • That’s what happened down here in Florida…it totally backfired but the public did realize how much diversity there is in this state and guess what? Gay marriage in Florida as of January 6.

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