GUEST POST *Trigger Warning* Legalizing Discrimination?

submitted by NK, Montana Human Rights Network Community Organizer


Former Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Nelson, testifying against HB 615

Imagine a world where a man could claim that domestic violence or child abuse laws don’t apply to him because his religion teaches him that a husband has the right to discipline his wife and children as he sees fit. Imagine a world where a woman must search through hospitals because her chosen hospital disagrees with the morality of a life-saving procedure for her. Imagine a world where a committed, loving LGBT couple could be denied a marriage license due to the religious beliefs of a government bureaucrat.

This is the world that extremists in Montana’s House of Representatives want to become a reality and it will if they have their way. House Bill 615 introduced by Carl Glimm (R-Kila), is a legislative referendum that Republicans are attempting to place on the ballot for the November 2016 election. This bill is inspired by the notorious Hobby Lobby decision made by the United States Supreme Court last year.

House Bill 615 would make discrimination legal in the name of religious freedom. The title of the bill is the so-called, “Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” A better name for the bill would be the, “Montana Right to Discriminate Act.” The bill is supposedly meant to protect people from laws that substantially burden their religious beliefs. However, this bill allows bosses to impose their religious beliefs on their employees resulting in a hornets’ nest of unintended consequences. Several glaring possibilities are pharmacies could turn away women seeking to fill birth control prescriptions, people seeking to fill prescriptions for HIV prevention treatment, or transgender people seeking hormone treatment. Another possible consequence could be a hospital that doesn’t believe in abortion refusing to perform the procedure even if the life of the mother was at stake.

Please call or email the Senate Judiciary Committee today and tell them to vote against HB 615

The law was originally passed at the federal level to protect Native Americans’ right to use peyote in religious ceremonies. How, you may ask, has it been perverted to circumvent well established laws on equality then? The answer is that after the recent case of Hobby Lobby at the United States Supreme Court the extreme right felt emboldened and responded with a backlash against equal marriage rights for all. This law is an attempt to circumvent hard fought gains made in the courts and could allow any employee of a clerk’s office to deny gay and lesbian couples their right to marriage licenses on religious grounds.

This bill would attack the great strides that we have made here in Montana to protect members of the LGBT community from employment, housing or public accommodation discrimination with the implementation of local non-discrimination ordinance’s(NDOs). In Montana the cities of Missoula, Helena and Bozeman have passed NDO’s as well as Butte Silver-Bow County. NDO’s could be nullified by the religious beliefs of only a few of the cities’ residents.

This bill would clog the courts with expensive litigation from those who claim they have a religious right to violate secular laws.

Religious freedom is one of our country’s fundamental values. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion, and we have the right to express our religious beliefs. These rights are guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution. Religion should never be a free pass to ignore the law or violate the basic civil rights of others. This law allows religion to be wielded as a sword and rather than a shield by encouraging people to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to violate the rights of others and emboldens people who want to use religion as justification for violating both criminal laws and civil laws.

Businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. Nobody should be turned away from a business or refused service by government officials just because of who they are. Existing non-discrimination laws at the state and local level obligate business owners to serve people of all faiths aPicturend races even when doing so challenges the religious views of the business owner. Businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms.

Montana doesn’t need this copied and pasted law, it is a bad legislation that authorizes discrimination. Montana representatives should listen to their better angels and choose not to codify discrimination. Intolerance has no place in the law.




20 Comments on "GUEST POST *Trigger Warning* Legalizing Discrimination?"

  1. Would this law allow a Christian to refuse doing business with Jewish people? Would it allow a Muslim to refuse to rent to a Christian? Could a librarian refuse to handle books that crossed his religion? Yeah, I suppose there might be unintended consequences. But what are a few bruised women and children when our (Montanans’) moral lives are at stake?

    • Yes. The whole thing is terrible. It would basically allow anyone to refuse to follow and challenge any state law simply because they claimed it was contrary to their religious beliefs.

  2. This is the same group that is, against all odds, winning the Medicaid expansion fight in Montana. There is a whole broad coalition working on this but MHRN is pretty much the lead. Good work.

  3. Goodness! Throw out that discrimination card! Christians everywhere sit back and be quiet. Discrimination is for you alone. Your beliefs are to be trampled on and you may not, in a country founded on religious freedom, openly practice them. Does that sound reasonable?
    Certainly there is common, respectful ground here folks.

    • That’s the issue – Christians are expecting to have their religious rights supercede the rights of others, not be equal.

      • That’s a sad statement Tyler. I guess your idea of equal is not equal to everyone else’s idea of equal. Forcing, by law, someone to go against their religious beliefs is equal? A complicated issue for sure.

        • No, that’s the thing, no one is FORCING you to go against religious beliefs until you try to use them to violate the rights of others, such as being a government employee and refusing service to someone you dislike. This is a miserable example, but you’re aware that there were whites who refused service of various sorts to minorities in the south back in the day, citing religious beliefs. And they may have genuinely held those beliefs, but it’s not okay to hold them above the basic constitutional rights of others.

          Like, if you want to go yell a bunch of homophobic stuff outside your house, your neighbors probably won’t appreciate it, but there is not much of a consequence. You might become a social pariah. However, when you start to use something like your position in government or business to discriminate, based on a religious belief…

          Even worse, many of these beliefs are not something where the holder will sit down and say, “Based on this section of scripture, where God told John to never eat a meal at an establishment where a gay person was served…” Rather, it’s a matter of, “Welp, homosexuality was mentioned in various forms in 14 verses (rough count, feel free to correct it) in the Bible, out of a total of 31,000-and-change verses (again, feel free to offer a different number). Some of those verses are from the Old Testament, and yet I don’t see people in a HUGE RUSH to go father children with their dead brother’s wife and support her for the rest of her life, also an Old Testament teaching.

          I also see these same people in less of a hurry to love one another as Jesus loved them than they are to be as horrible to those they decide are “wrong” or “sinners” or whose lifestyle they disagree with – this is a 180degree flip on how Jesus approached folks like the Samaritan women at the well, whom he engaged with, rather than chewing out, and was kind to, rather than berating as a sinner (he even acknowledged her sin, but did not belabor it, rather encouraged her to listen to him). It is also not how he approached Gentiles, when he didn’t forced the Jewish requirements of hand-washing upon them, and didn’t exclude them, but interacted with them.

          Frankly, you won’t run into many issues with your religious beliefs if you follow them and seek to share them with others. It is when you attempt to make them a yoke, not for yourself, but for others, that you both will turn them away, and you will violate their rights.

          It is sad that you think that having the freedom to practice religion freely in this country is somehow infringed on when you cannot somehow push into the free exercise of religion (or lack there of) of others.

          It is also sad that the people who push these laws love them right up until someone uses them to deny a Christian service, and then they’re HIGHLY offended with how the Christian’s freedom of religion has been violated! Imagine the uproar that a county clerk would cause if they refused to issue a marriage document to a Christian couple, for religious grounds, and you can see the effect it causes to everyone.

  4. The boycott of Indiana has already started, if this becomes law in MT our state will be hit so hard and fast by a boycott it will be stunning.

  5. Two things–

    1) Religion is protected under the Montana Human Rights Act (MCA 49-2 and MCA 49-3). Both for employees in private companies and government employees under the Government Code of Fair Practices. The protections are there already and the Montana Human Rights Bureau gives anyone who has a complaint a wide berth to bring one. I just looked, like I did a couple days ago, and religion is still a protected class.

    2) This bill is not about religious freedom. This bill is about turning out the right’s beloved Christian base and other concerned Christians during the 2016 election. It’s going to be a tight election, a Presidential turnout election for the other side of the aisle, and as the recent votes on campaign finance and Medicaid have shown, progress could spell doom for them in some key districts. If this gets on the ballot, they can turn the tide. Remember that, senators and representatives trying to do the Good Work this session.

  6. Rep. Glimm is the lone legislator with the conviction to carry the bill. Where are his brothers and sisters in arms?

  7. I already sent a letter to Indiana governor Pence and the Indianapolis paper. And the Montana House Judiciary Committee. Told the gov I had cancelled any plans to visit Indiana unless I got a list of all the businesses who would use religious beliefs to discriminate. Or, instead of a list, explain how I could just look at a business and determine if they are pro or anti-gay.
    There are a lot of good comments in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about this. I thought an amendment could be added that anybody claiming “faith based discrimination” could have it provided they submit scientifically peer reviewed proof for their faith. Also, since there will be so many claims based on religion we could finally sort out which religion is number one.
    And the danger of a boycott is strong. The business Salesforce, based in San Fran, has already cancelled any interaction with Indiana. Gen Con gamers convention is looking for a way out. (Say goodbye to $50,000,000.00 Indiana.) And sports figures protesting. This could be Indiana’s last Final Four and Superbowl.

  8. It’s obvious you haven’t even bothered to read the Bill but prefer to spread propaganda. That Bill is in response to Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006), interprets
    the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires that federal laws and other actions by the federal government burdening the free exercise of religion must be justified by a compelling governmental interest. Since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was passed in response to the Employment
    Division v. Smith decision and only applies to federal laws; and following the Gonzales decision favorably applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, many states have responded by
    passing laws similar to this act.

    Now that we’ve cleared up the issue what the Bill is about (not about beating wives, small children or pets – illegal and many times felonies – or depriving people of medical care because that is a violation of EMTALA – violation of Federal Law). Try to remember, as hard as it is to accept there was to be a separation of Church and State but at no time was it ever stated religion was to be eradicated just that the churches would not be involved with government decisions as it has been in England. If anyone ever actually read the original documents you should know the Declaration of Independence itself states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”. Please note the acknowledgement of a Creator and in the First Amendment the Right to Freedom of Religion was guaranteed. You may not like people who choose to worship but their rights were protected too so it’s time you stop hating them – Gandi could have shown you a few things.

    • YES! YES! YES!

      • Lucy and Sandy, I see your yes and raise you two.
        Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen spoke on the floor and said we need a bill that requires everyone to go to the church of their choice. A bit skeptical at first, but now I’m convinced.
        My church is going to have untaxed booze (because a church shouldn’t pay taxes), prostitutes (male, female, and mixed) with free will offerings, men’s seminars on how to make your wife submit to your will (I’ll call it “The Way Lucy and Sandy Really Want It” seminar), offer “proof” that Greg Gianforte, Steve Daines and the Koch Brothers are really Jesus’ grandchildren, and, best of all my tithe will only be 7.5%. Sort of a church based on Wal-Mart-More Faith, Cheaper Prices.
        Cowgirl, my inner Larry made me write this. If I offended anyone with this post I meant it in the nicest way.

    • Sandy, I have 4 questions for you: (1) Based on his religious beliefs, should an employer be able to fire an employee when he discovers that the employee is gay? (2) Should a landlord be able to evict a tenant because the tenant turns out to be gay? (3) Should a restaurant owner be able to refuse service to a customer who looks gay to him? (4) should a motel owner refuse to rent a room to a traveler because the traveler seems gay to him?

      If you answer yes to these questions, you’re a profoundly immoral person. You can try to hide your immorality behind your religion, but it shines through nonetheless.

  9. Here is Indiana Governor Pence singing the bill with supporters. Looks like there won’t be too many conflicting religious exceptions from this group……..riiight. Let the fun begin!

  10. There’s an old saying that ” Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”. Practice your religion as you see fit, it’s yours, its personal and it should be between you and your Creator. No one else needs to know. But practicing your religion does not give you any more or any less “rights” than any other person and it most certainly does not give you any “right” to reduce the rights of others.

  11. I think there should be an amendment to the bill. People can be allowed to discriminate against others on the basis of their religion, IF they can prove objectively that their religion teaches they may not do business with the person they are discriminating against. As someone who knows my Bible well, I can say this is going to prove difficult. Good luck with that. Because Christianity certainly doesn’t teach that you can’t make a cake for a gay person or that you can’t rent your house to transgender people or that you shouldn’t hire a lesbian. Last I checked, it actually teaches the opposite. So, obviously, this isn’t about protecting anyone’s religion at all. It’s about protecting the bigotry and immaturity of people who don’t know how to play nice with others and are cowards hiding behind a religion they obviously aren’t very familiar with.

  12. Amazing there is no mention of the Dem origin of the RFRA concept.

    So what is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and what does it say?

    The first RFRA was a 1993 federal law that was signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton. It unanimously passed the House of Representatives, where it was sponsored by then-congressman Chuck Schumer, and sailed through the Senate on a 97-3 vote.

    The law reestablished a balancing test for courts to apply in religious liberty cases (a standard had been used by the Supreme Court for decades). RFRA allows a person’s free exercise of religion to be “substantially burdened” by a law only if the law furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

    So the law doesn’t say that a person making a religious claim will always win. In the years since RFRA has been on the books, sometimes the courts have ruled in favor of religious exemptions, but many other times they haven’t.

    If there’s already a federal RFRA in place, why did Indiana (think Montana) pass its own RFRA?

    Great question. In a 1997 Supreme Court case (City of Boerne v. Flores), the court held that federal RFRA was generally inapplicable against state and local laws. Since then, a number of states have enacted their own RFRA statutes: Indiana became the twentieth to do so. Other states have state court rulings that provide RFRA-like protections.

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