17 March 2016

Small American Towns Fighting Back

Senate Approves 2 Bills
Independence and dynamics of American small towns are being utilized to the hilt to combat the blatant attempt by the minority to suppress the freedom and right of the majority to associate with whomever they are comfortable with.

The battlefield this time is in Frankfurt, Kentucky where the Senate committee approved two "religious liberty" bills last 25 February, one to legally protect businesses that don't want to serve gay, lesbian or transgender customers because of the owners’ religious objections, and the other to protect religious expression in public schools.

The first measure, Senate Bill 180, would prohibit the government from compelling services or actions from anyone if doing so conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill expands the state’s 2013 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify that businesses could not be punished in such cases for violating local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, the bill’s sponsor, said there are Christian-owned bakeries, florists and photographers in Kentucky that don’t want to assist with same-sex weddings. However, they also don’t want to face civil-rights lawsuits by spurned customers and punitive fines by local civil-rights agencies, Robinson said.

"All of these business owners want to treat everyone with full human dignity and respect," Robinson, R-London, told the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

"But their consciences and religious beliefs prevent them from using their skills to promote a celebration that runs counter to what the Bible teaches about marriage. Shouldn’t their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion be respected?"

Robinson said he’s also responding to the case of Hands On Originals, a Lexington business that refused to print T-shirts in 2012 for the Lexington Pride Festival, citing the owner’s religious objections.

"There is an agenda at work here that seeks to force people with sincerely held religious convictions to either abandon these beliefs or violate them or face state action that could close their businesses and destroy them financially," Robinson told his colleagues.

As written, the bill would cover governments as well as businesses, limiting the power of public agencies to infringe on the "right of conscience" or "freedom of religion" of people who work for them.

For instance, last July, a religious group threatened to sue the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice over its anti-bias policy to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in state custody. The department asked a volunteer Baptist minister, David Wells, to stop working at its Bowling Green detention center because Wells would not agree to stop warning the youths about "the harms of homosexuality" as taught in the Bible.

Tolerance can go too far, Stan Cave, an attorney for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, testified to the Senate committee last 25 February. Cave said he helped Robinson draft the bill.

"Over the last 20 years, we've heard a lot of conversation about tolerance," Cave said. "All of us want to be tolerant. But there comes a point where one person’s rights infringe with being tolerant of another person's beliefs."

The committee voted 8 to 1 to approve SB 180 and send it to the Senate floor. Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, cast the sole "no" vote, saying the state and federal constitutions already offer adequate protection for religious liberties. Four senators voted "pass," citing the Hands On Originals case and saying the Senate traditionally doesn’t like to approve legislation that would affect lawsuits pending in the courts.