Gov. Beshear Vetoes Religious Freedom Bill (HB 279): What’s Next?

Despite strong support in both the House and Senate, Gov. Steve Beshear has vetoed the Religious Freedom Bill (HB 279).

Since the bill’s passage by the General Assembly, the American Civil Liberties Union and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) opponents of the bill have been urging Gov. Beshear to veto the bill, alleging that people of faith would use such a law as cover to do everything from get out of parking tickets to abuse children.

What can you do to help?

Call the legislative message line at 800-372-7181 and leave a message with a secretary for all the legislators in my county – Senators and Representatives – AND Senate and House leadership:

“Please override the veto of HB 279 – The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Call now and on Monday, March 25 and on Tuesday, March 26.

The legislative message line is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. EDT.

What is the Religious Freedom Bill (HB279) all about?

The bill restores the “compelling interest/least restrictive means” as a legal test the government must pass before restricting religious freedom, bringing Kentucky in line with federal judicial standards.

Last Oct. 25, the Kentucky Supreme Court changed the state judicial standard when dealing with religious freedom cases to the “rational basis,” which means government just needs “a reason” to infringe on someone’s religious freedom.

If HB 279 is signed into law, the “compelling interest/least restrictive means” test would be re-established and would mean that the government once again would have to have a compelling interest to restrict religious freedom, and even then it could only use the least restrictive means to accomplish its compelling interest.

Vetoing the bill puts Kentucky out of step with federal courts, which have used the “compelling interest/least restrictive means” test since the 1930s. In 1990, the U.S Supreme Court did the same thing as our Kentucky Supreme Court when it chose the “rational basis” test. Congress corrected the federal court with the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, the same thing the Kentucky General Assembly is trying to do now with HB279.

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2 Comments

  1. labman57
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    There exists in the world a group of religious extremists which routinely relies upon biased interpretations of cherry-picked passages taken from holy scriptures to rationalize their intolerance and persecution of anyone who does not share their narrow view of societal norms.

    The group in question is, of course:
    1) the Taliban
    2) Israeli orthodox Jews
    3) American Christian conservatives
    4) all of the above

    Religious extremism comes in many flavors, but they all share a common vision: “It’s my way or the highway”.

    The Christian conservative’s definition of “Religious Liberty” is the right (and duty) to impose their own dogmatic views and mores onto the rest of society.

    • admin
      Posted March 25, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation, labman57.

      Here’s the language of the bill as it stands now:

      Government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A “burden” shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.

      Passing HB 279 would bring Kentucky in line with Federal courts, and more than a dozen other states with similar judicial standards. Studies of cases tried under these standards — and there are very few — demonstrate little reason to fear that such laws would be used to trump civil rights or impose a particular religious view on the population at large.

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