Kentucky Legislation Allows Discrimination Against Atheists

Kentucky Legislation Allows Discrimination Against Atheists March 14, 2016

Theocracy Alert: New legislation in Kentucky would allow those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against atheists.

The new legislation is designed to allow conservative Christians to discriminate against same-sex couples without fear of legal consequence; however, the legislation is so broad and so poorly written that it would allow discrimination against gays, atheists, interracial couples, interfaith couples, and anyone else that is offensive to a person’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

Senate Bill 180 would prohibit the government from compelling services or actions from anyone if doing so conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill expands the state’s 2013 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify that businesses could not be punished in such cases for violating local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

SB 180, titled “An Act Relating to the Protection of Rights,” creates a statewide group of “protected activities” and “protected activity providers” to afford immunity from any federal or state laws

In other words, interracial couples, atheists, LGBT people and others can be denied services by businesses and the government for religious reasons even though federal law explicitly forbids discrimination. While the bill does not expressly mention these groups, it is so broad that it might as well.

According to SB180:

‘Protected activities’ means actions by people commissioned, employed, hired, retained, or otherwise used by the public or the government to provide customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services, or judgments, attestations, or other commissions that involve protected rights;

‘Protected activity provider’ means a person who provides protected activities; and

‘Protected rights’ means the rights of persons to be free from governmental actions that impair, impede, infringe upon, or otherwise restrict the exercise of any right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Kentucky, including but not limited to a person’s right of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and right to peaceable assembly.

In short, the new legislation creates a statewide group of “protected activities” and “protected activity providers” to afford immunity from any federal or state laws, and seeks to prevent the criminal and civil prosecution of those violating the Constitution, Court rulings, or other laws, as long as they are acting out of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

While SB 180 is a particularly odious example of Christian conservatives promoting bigotry and hatred in the name of their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” the legislation is not unique. In fact, the Human Rights Campaign notes that nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills promoting “religious freedom”  have been introduced in 32 states this year.

Bottom line: SB 180 is an outrageous bill that would allow individuals and businesses in the state to pick and choose which laws they follow in order to be able to discriminate against atheists, the LGBT community, and anyone else that offends their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Kentucky State Capitol (Image via Wikimedia)
Kentucky State Capitol (Image via Wikimedia)
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