(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 3 p.m. on March 7 with comment from State Sen. Morgan McGarvey.)
The Kentucky Senate will be voting on a bill titled “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” today at 2 p.m. that would give Kentuckians the right to ignore federal laws and regulations which “directly and substantially burden” their religious beliefs.
Of course, the question becomes, “What if your religious beliefs tell you African-Americans are the sons of Satan?” and you ban minorities from your restaurant?
Or if your child is disobedient and you want to stone him or her to death per Deuteronomy 21: 18-21, are you exempt from federal and state murder laws?
Things could get awkward fast – and potentially expensive – for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.
Louisville’s Fairness Campaign says decades of civil rights protections will be called into question if the bill is not amended, and they are asking voters to “call 800-372-7181 and ask for your senator and senate leadership to amend HB279.”
That bill, HB279, passed the Kentucky House of Represenatives on March 1 with a vote of 82-7, was given its first reading on the Kentucky Senate floor Tuesday, and heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon.
Getting to the specifics, the bill has basically five major provisions:
1) government shall not directly and substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion.2) government shall protect the right to act or refuse to act on religious grounds.3) government shall prove by clear and convincing evidence prove a compelling governmental interest in establishing a direct substantial burden on the freedom of religion.4) government shall specify what constitutes a burden.5) this law does not affect the grant or denial of an appropriation to a religious organization or a tax exemption for a religious organization.
HB279’s original sponsor was Rep. Robert R. “Bullet Bob” Damron (D-Nicholasville), who is otherwise best-known for being point man in the General Assembly for the National Rifle Association.
Damron represents the 39th district of Kentucky.
The House approved a proposed redistricting map on Wednesday 53-46, which keeps Damron within the boundaries of the 39th district. (Damron voted for the new map.)
However, according to CN/|2’s Ryan Alessi, the 39th will be losing some of its “more conservative precincts in western Jessamine County, including Wimore.”
While the Senate is in session, the vote has not yet taken place. We have received the following statement from Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville):
“I oppose discrimination and am working with others on an amendment to House Bill 279 that protects religious freedom while preserving our established protections for fairness and civil rights.”
You can watch the session on livestream via KET: http://www.ket.org/