Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Louisiana's anti-gay 'religious freedom' bill already starting trouble in state legislature

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan of making the passage of an anti-gay religious liberty bill a priority is running into some opposition from state legislators.

Speaker pro tempore of the state House of Representatives Walter "Walt" J. Leger III wrote an absolutely blistering column in Monday's Times Picayne. In the column, Leger stood firmly against passing such a bill:

 Moral and religious people do not discriminate. While overly broad and intentionally ambiguous, this so-called religious freedom bill provides protections for individuals who cite their personal religious beliefs to discriminate against people. It is bigotry enshrouded in religion. This is not what the proponents would have you believe, though. They claim the bill is meant to "safeguard religious freedom" and protect individuals from "adverse treatment by the state" in retaliation for actions stemming out of their personal beliefs. Federal and state laws already exist to protect religious liberty.
 . . .  Moral and religious principles aside, the proposed law threatens our nation's core tenets of freedom and equality. We should not and cannot cite religious freedom to allow businesses to deny service to people based on their skin color, religion or gender. So why would we allow discrimination based on sexual orientation? Would we have stores place "Heterosexuals Only" signs in their windows where "Whites Only" signs once hung?

Preventing a business from discriminating does not hinder the freedom of the business owner to hold his sincere religious beliefs in his heart and in his home. A business operating in the public sphere, relying on public infrastructure, is not at liberty to pick and choose who it will allow to be its customers. Either it is open for business or not.

Needless to say, Leger's words has some religious right groups seething. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council had this to say in an email:

Leger must have gone to President Obama's School of Religious Liberty, where the slogan is: believe what you want, but don't act on it outside the home. Like most liberals, he thinks that surrendering your beliefs is the price of doing business. On one point Leger is correct: "We must ensure that Louisiana lives up to the ideals of a life lived free of government-sanctioned discrimination." I agree. But the only way of ensuring that is by passing HB 707 and treating everyone's views with the respect the Left's already enjoy.

Of course Perkins' comments failed to speak about Leger's very good point regarding infrastructure. However, regardless of his comments,  Perkins would be highly inaccurate to lay opposition to the bill solely at Legers' feet. According to CBS News, other legislators aren't exactly happy with the bill either. Either they are hesitant to talk about the bill or think it's a waste of time in light of the fact that Louisiana has a $1.6 billion shortfall it must deal with. The bill wasn't even yet sent to committee. This keeps it from receiving a public hearing or any vote. According to CBS News, out of the hundreds of bills introduced, it was the only bill not sent to committee.

What happens next is anyone's guess. However, if you ask me, I would say that the same hell which met Indiana Gov. Mike Pence when he signed that state's "religious freedom" bill is waiting for Jindal.

And if Jindal continues to stroll eagerly into this hell, he deserves whatever negative backlash he is sure to receive.

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