Religious liberty groups are blasting a proposed ordinance that would force churches in Hutchinson, Kan. to rent their facilities for gay weddings and gay parties.
The Hutchinson City Council will consider adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes in the city’s human relations code. They are expected to vote on the changes next month.
According to the Hutchinson Human Relations Commission, churches that rent out their buildings to the general public would not be allowed to discriminate “against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party.”
Meryl Dye, a spokesperson for the Human Relations Commission confirmed to Fox News that churches would be subjected to portions of the proposed law.
“They would not be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian or transgender individuals,” Dye said. “That type of protection parallels to what you find in race discrimination. If a church provides lodging or rents a facility they could not discriminate based on race. It’s along that kind of thinking.”
Matthew Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel Action, told Fox News the proposed law is “un-American.”
“It is a collision course between religious freedom and the LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “This proposed legislation will ultimately override the religious freedom that is protected under the First Amendment.”
He argued that churches cannot be forced by the government to set aside their religious convictions and their mission. And, he warned, some churches could even be forced to rent their buildings for drag parties.
“What we are ultimately going to see is churches forced to confront this law, forced to do things and allow their facilities to be used by people and for events that diametrically undercut the mission of the church,” he said.
Robert Noland, of the Kansas Family Policy Council, said the law would extend well beyond allowing access for gay weddings.
“They (churches) could not deny renting space to a gay couple if they want to have a party,” he told Fox News. “This is just another example of government creating a law imposing upon the freedom of religion and basically telling churches what they can and can’t do.”
So what could happen to churches in Hutchinson that refuse to accommodate gay parties or weddings?
“Unless the city council includes an exemption for churches, it would generate a discrimination complaint for the gay couple and it would be investigated,” Dye told Fox News. She said any churches found guilty of violating the law could be subjected to fines or other penalties.
UPDATED: Catholic News Agency has picked up the story and added more detail:
“As far as individuals go, there doesn’t seem to be any likelihood that there will be a protection or an exemption for them,” said Kansas Catholic Conference Executive Director Michael Schuttloffel, addressing a proposal to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in the city of Hutchinson.
“As far as religious institutions, that will depend entirely on what sort of exemption – if any – is put in place (by the city council) … If there is none, then you could conceivably have a Catholic church that is forced to host a ceremony that violates Catholic beliefs.”
Schuttloffel spoke to CNA on April 24, as members of Hutchinson’s Human Relations Commission prepared for a meeting the following day to finalize their “Proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protections”…
…Schuttloffel noted that the proposal is still “early in the process” of rule-making, and its outcome is not yet clear.
But the essence of the proposal, he said, is a radical breach of religious freedom, comparable to the federal contraception mandate.