submitted by NK, Montana Human Rights Network Community Organizer
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 http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/64th/legwebmessage.asp
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 and 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.