A measure is being taken by the Kansas House Judiciary Committee to, according to Kansas state legislators, protect religious freedoms. President Obama’s insurance mandate has been cited as a reason for why the legislation is needed.
The Judiciary committee held a hearing on the bill on February 14th and is planning to vote on it on February 20th. Rep Lance Kinzer (R-KS) has communicated that the bill merely writes into state law language from past Kansas court decisions, in regard to government placing too much of a burden on the practice of religion.
State and local government policies would be restricted from significantly burdening this right without a show of compelling interest. In addition to that, the burden must be instituted in the least restrictive manner possible.
Gay-rights advocates, however, see things differently. They believe the bill seeks to nullify local ordinances and university policies which ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But, proponents of the bill argue that people would still have the right to take legal action against state and local government if they believe they have been discriminated against. However, HotAir illuminates the fact that there are no state laws in Kansas which guard against discrimination in employment, public accommodation or housing, based on sexual orientation. The anti-discrimination laws are all local ordinances.
The Kansas Equality Coalition opposes the measure and is planning to lobby against it while both the Kansas Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America support the legislation.
On a side note, HotAir likens this measure to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law which was able to get through the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote and was passed by the Senate by a vote of 97-3. The bill was signed into law by Bill Clinton. The statute states that the federal government can “substantially burden” one’s “exercise of religion” only if it “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering” that interest. The birth-control mandate is unconstitutional and violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Michael Schuttloffel, lobbyist and executive director for the Catholic Conference, sums things up by saying: “Concern for religious freedom is not a theoretical concern” and that “an attack on anyone’s religious liberty, any group’s religious liberty, is an attack on everyone’s religious liberty.”
The status of HB 2260 can be found here.