Michigan House Republicans just passed a religious "license to discriminate" bill, which would allow anyone to refuse service to anyone and claim their "religious beliefs" require them to discriminate.
The Michigan House of Representatives, led by Speaker Jase Bolger (photo, above, left, with Gov. Rick Snyder,) just passed a bill that would allow discrimination to become sanction by the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, akin to one that made nationwide headlines in Arizona but was vetoed, appears to merely force the government to step aside if a person's "deeply-held religious beliefs" mandate they act, or not act, in a certain manner.
Supporters of these bills claim they allow people of faith to exercise their religion without government interference, but in reality, they are trojan horses, allowing rampant discrimination under the guise of religious observance.
For example, under the Religious Freedom law, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor's prescription for birth control, or HIV medication. An emergency room physician or EMT could refuse service to a gay person in need of immediate treatment. A school teacher could refuse to mentor the children of a same-sex couple, and a DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver's license to a person who is divorced.
Michigan Speaker Bolger fast-tracked the bill, which passed on partisan lines, 59-50. It now heads to the Michigan Senate, and if successful, to Republican Governor Rick Snyder. It is not known if Gov. Snyder would sign it.
“I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” Bolger said today. “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.”
MLive reports that Michigan's RFRA is "modeled after a federal version that the Supreme Court has said should not apply to states."
The Michigan RFRA, modeled after a federal version that the Supreme Court has ruled does not apply to states, would establish a two-part balancing test for legal challenges, according to Bolger.
“The idea that we need to ‘restore’ religious freedom — rights that are already enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — is a farce created by conservative lawmakers for the sole purpose of appeasing their far-right donors and the religious-right,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement.
Earlier today a Michigan House committee failed to pass an LGBT non-discrimination bill after a local anti-gay pastor delivered scathing testimony.
"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," Stacy Swimp told the committee. "There is no record of LGBT — homosexuals, lesbians being forced to sit at the back of the bus in an LGBT section."
Some responses via Twitter:
MI House follows #RFRA with bill letting agencies deny adoptions based on religious beliefs. So much for RFRA not leading to discrimination.— MI House Democrats (@MIHouseDems) December 4, 2014
Image via Flickr