RNC Resolution for ‘religious freedom’ (to discriminate) laws

In case you were unaware, the Republican National Committee is holding its Spring Meeting in the hub of the “Kochtopus” in Scottsdale, Arizona. Media Advisory: RNC Spring Meeting.

After Governor Doug Ducey, the man hired by Koch Industries to manage their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona (h/t Charles Piece) welcomes the RNC to Arizona, at the general session this afternoon the RNC is expected to take up resolutions, including this one. Republicans Rally Behind State ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws:

gop-elephant-w-flag-crossThe Republican National Committee is expected to approve a resolution supporting the passage of state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation. The resolution passed out of committee on Wednesday and will come up for a vote before the 168-member governing body on Friday.

The resolution seems carefully written to recommend that states adopt bills “that mirror the federal RFRA to protect citizens’ rights to lead all aspects of their lives according to their deeply held religious beliefs.” Indiana and Arkansas recently received national scrutiny for advancing legislation under the name of RFRA that were more expansive than the federal language; both states amended the bills to avoid explicit efforts to allow discrimination against LGBT people.

SB1062 Arizona already has a state statute that mirrors the federal RFRA, Ariz. Rev. Stat. §41-1493.01.

Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature passed a more expansive “license to discriminate” bill, SB 1062, at the behest of Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy in 2014, which Governor Jan Brewer vetoed only after negative national media attention, and the business community then urged her to veto the bill.

The business community was silent on a nearly identical bill passed by the Arizona legislature the previous year, which was vetoed by Gov. Brewer only because of her fight with the legislature over Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion, and her threat to veto all bills sent to her desk until she got what she wanted.

“Religious freedom continues to be a critically important factor in sustaining the legacy of freedom in America,” the resolution asserts, lauding RFRA for upholding “human dignity and religious conscience.” But despite the way that the “fixes” ameliorated the concerns about discrimination in Indiana and Arkansas, a RFRA in another state — one that mirrors the federal law — has since been used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination.

Just last month, a Kentucky judge reversed a decision against a printing company that refused to make shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival, citing the state’s RFRA. The original ruling that Hands On Originals had violated the city’s LGBT non-discrimination protections “substantially burdened” the shop’s owners’ “free exercise of religion,” the judge ruled, and “punished” them “for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Forcing the business to print shirts that “convey messages contrary to their faith” — in this case, the words “Lexington Pride Festival,” the number “5”, and some rainbow-colored circles — substantially burdens their religious beliefs in violation of the RFRA.

In other words, there is now evidence that even a RFRA written as moderately as the federal law can be used to justify discrimination against LGBT people. The U.S. Supreme Court has already set a precedent for reading the law in an expansive way, interpreting it to allow employers like Hobby Lobby to to refuse contraception coverage to female employees. By approving this resolution, the RNC will be endorsing the passage of laws that could now allow for discrimination against both women and LGBT people in the name of religion.

You can bet that Gov. Ducey’s campaign adviser, Cathi Herrod from the Center for Arizona Policy, will be on hand for this RNC resolution.

Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage in June, Cathi Herrod has said she will be back with a new version of SB 1062 in January.

UPDATE: Is It Okay To Refuse Service To A Same-Sex Couple For Religious Reasons? Jeb Bush: ‘Absolutely.’ And he is supposed to be the “smart” one.

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