Ah Kentuckians, how it must feel waking up this morning to the fact that your elected officials are trying to make discrimination legal, and fun, if you do it based on your religious beliefs.
Yesterday, the Today Kentucky House passed House Bill 279—AKA the Religious Freedom Bill—which is ostensibly designed to protect individuals' religious liberty from undue governmental interference. But, as it is currently written, the bill undermines existing civil rights protections in the State.
It moves on to the Senate where, I hope, smarter heads prevail. But, if the Senate chooses to keep the bill's current language, and not amend it to include specific protections for civil rights laws, a religious individual could claim an exemption from any law or policy that prohibits discrimination—leaving racial minorities, women, LGBT people and others without adequate protections.
See, in Kentucky you’d be able to legally discriminate against Blacks, and Latinos, and woman or any race or color, and LGBT people, if you say something like ‘God made me do it.’ And, if this bill passes, with the current language intact, it could undermine existing LGBT Fairness protections in local statutes in places Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco, Kentucky.
And if you don’t think folks will use their so-called religion as an excuse to discriminate, well, they have in the past, and here’s how and where:
Against African-Americans: In 1966, three African-American customers brought a suit against Piggie Park restaurants, and their owner, Maurice Bessinger, for refusal to serve them. Bessinger argued that enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits that type of discrimination, violated his religious freedom "since his religious beliefs compel[ed] him to oppose any integration of the races whatever."
Against women: In 1976, Roanoke Valley Christian Schools added a "head of household" supplement to their teachers' salaries – which according to their beliefs meant married men, and not women.When sued under the Equal Pay Act, Roanoke Valley claimed a right to an exemption. According to the church pastor affiliated with the school, "[w]hen we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household, by scriptural basis, we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family."
Against interracial marriages: In the 1980's, Bob Jones University, a religiously-affiliated school in South Carolina, wanted an exemption from a rule denying tax-exempt status to schools that practice racial discrimination. The "sponsors of the University genuinely believe[d] that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage," and it was school policy that students engaged in interracial relationships, or advocacy thereof, would be expelled.
As I said, hopefully the Kentucky Senate has more active brain cells in it than does the House. If not, any religion, and we all know they are some legitimate ones out there, but there are also some crazy ones, too, would be able to legally discriminate against minorities, women and the LGBT community.
In the 21st century.
via the ACLU