Libertyfreedumb Religion

“Religious Liberty” is Back

It's a new year which means it's the beginning of a new legislative session in many states and that means conservative state lawmakers will be up to their usual tricks in the coming weeks and months.

Lawmakers in Georgia are preparing to consider two "religious liberty" bills that would legalize discrimination in the state, because "liberty," as it were, apparently isn't a universal concept.

SB 129, introduced by Sen. Josh McKoon (R), would prohibit the government from burdening an individual’s religious beliefs similar to the federal RFRA that was expanded by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. This protection would be used to circumvent local laws across the state that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; for example, a wedding vendor who refuses to serve a same-sex couple could claim that doing so burdens her religious liberty. [...]

In 2016, SB 129 will not be alone. Sen. Greg Kirk (R), a former Southern Baptist pastor, is planning to introduce a companion bill similarly intended to enable discrimination. He has not filed it nor made its text publicly available, but he claims it would mirror the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) introduced in Congress.

This is just the latest example of the conservative Republican notion of sovereignty which they do not covet unless it's only theirs to have.

Republican state lawmakers and governors have no qualms about exerting control over cities and municipalities that vote to raise their minimum wage or, in this case, bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That is to say they believe in "states' rights" only if they control the state.

As far as "liberty" goes, I think we've covered that.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    I wouldn’t overreact to this. Like the other state RFRAs we’ve seen, it’s very likely that this one would not actually create a de jure right to discriminate, even though it would probably enable de facto discrimination by discouraging victims from suing. In the end, and it might go all the way to the SCOTUS, “religious liberty” is not, cannot be, and will never be, a complete defense to a civil lawsuit under our system of laws. If a discriminator tries to use RFRA as a complete defense to civil liability, he will lose.

    No competent court will ever hold that a state anti-discrimination statute violates a state RFRA, for two reasons. First, the state has a compelling interest in preventing commercial discrimination and such laws were not passed for the express or implied purpose of burdening religious practice; in other words, the anti-discrimination law would not meet the standard for a RFRA violation. Second, a state legislature cannot have violated its own law by passing a different law years before the law it supposedly broke was passed.

    A private civil litigant/plaintiff cannot violate a RFRA by suing a discriminator. If any RFRA attempted to create a complete affirmative defense to a private civil lawsuit based on “religious belief,” it would not survive a constitutional challenge; it would be as clear a violation of the Establishment Clause as there could possibly be.

    In the end, no court is going to allow a civil defendant to walk into court and say, “Yes, I violated the plaintiff’s legal rights; yes, that violation caused him to suffer economic harm. But, since I believe [insert ancient myth/superstition here], I should not be responsible for my actions or for the harm I caused.”

  • muselet

    SB 129 passed the Senate, but only after it was forced through committee while Democrats were in the bathroom. It screeched to a halt, however, in the House Judiciary Committee, where lawmakers attempted to amend it to ensure that it could not be used to discriminate. Though McKoon and the bill’s other supporters had claimed all along it would not enable discrimination, they insisted that such an amendment “would completely undercut the purpose of the bill.”

    Freedumb! Liburtee! ‘Cept fer them icky gay folks, a’course.

    It must be terrible to go through life horrified by people who aren’t just like you and wanting to hurt them all.

    –alopecia