Idaho Republicans Propose ‘Pre-emptive’ Strike Protecting Faith-Based Discrimination

Republican lawmakers in Idaho are so worried that LGBT people will force them to abandon their religious beliefs, they’ve outlined a plan of attack for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Last week, Rep. Lynn Luker introduced plans to preemptively protect professionals in various fields from having their licenses revoked if they refuse to serve LGBT people on religious grounds. Professionals from physical therapists to midwives to teachers would be protected if they decided it was against their religious beliefs to provide services to gays and lesbians. (The only exception is that emergency personnel could not refuse to treat somebody.)

Rep. Lynn Luker

The Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses helps oversee 29 boards that issue licenses for professionals Luker’s measure aims to shield. Additionally, it extends a shield to nurses, doctors, teachers, firefighters and police officers, among others. If adopted, nobody could have his or her license revoked by a government agency or board for “declining to provide or participate in providing any service that violates the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

However, Luker’s proposed legislation comes out of nowhere because the scenarios he’s envisioning have never actually occurred in Idaho. While some cases have arisen in other states — for example, in Oregon, where a bakery refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and was found to have unlawfully discriminated against them — this has never even remotely happened in Idaho. And Luker knows it.

Luker, a Boise Republican, knows of no example in Idaho of an actual challenge to a professional’s license on these grounds. Still, he points to efforts by gays and lesbians elsewhere seeking to end what they contend is discrimination against them as a sign Idaho must act quickly to protect the faithful before something similar arises closer to home.

“This is pre-emptive,” Luker said. “The issue is coming, whether it’s 10 years, or 15 years, or two years.”

In Oregon and New Mexico, where incidents like this have occurred, LGBT people are protected under state anti-discrimination laws. Idaho’s Human Rights Act, on the other hand, doesn’t protect LGBT people, and Republicans have rejected efforts to add them as a protected class.

So what’s their solution? Not protecting the marginalized group that faces discrimination on a daily basis from religious folks and others. Nope. It’s protecting those who are so often guilty of doing the discriminating.

These laws aren’t a new concept, of course. There’s a similar debate going on right now in South Dakota, where lawmakers deemed that it was unnecessary to protect religious clergy who opt out of same-sex marriages (because they’re already protected), but are still considering protecting businesses who refuse service to LGBT people:

A new measure has surfaced that takes the same idea a step further. Senate Bill 128 would allow people and businesses to share their views on sexual orientation without getting in trouble.

The measure would also make it illegal to sue a business for refusing to work with a same sex couple. It also says businesses should not be compelled to hire someone based on their sexual orientation.

Back in Idaho, conservative Christians will not let go of the idea that the government is out to get them.

Julie Lynde, Cornerstone’s executive director, says governments are increasingly passing or interpreting laws to block people from “living out their faith.”

“The free expression of religious freedom is no longer understood for what it was intended,” Lynde said. “There’s a double standard against people of traditional religious faiths.”

Democrats who oppose the potential bill have been vocal about its problems, such as cases where businesses whose owners are extremely traditional could legally discriminate against women. (Not that that’ll sway these Republicans!)

While it’s reassuring that not all of Idaho’s elected officials are living decades behind the rest of us, that’s outweighed by the utter ignorance that goes into protecting people who discriminate against others. Discrimination on any grounds is never okay. How long will it take us to realize that?

(Thanks to Chris for the link)

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