Utah GOP House Rep. LaVar Christensen released his vision Wednesday for legislation he says protects religious liberties in Utah while preventing employment and housing discrimination against all Utahns — but targets gay and lesbian residents and does not guarantee them any protections whatsoever.
Christensen’s bill includes explicit protection for religious liberties, saying that the state must have a compelling interest — protecting public health or safety — to infringe on an individual’s religious freedom and it must be done in the least restrictive way possible. It is similar to language in Religious Freedom Restoration acts passed in 17 states and at the federal level under George Bush.
HB322 gives individuals, “closely held businesses,” religious institutions or their affiliates the right to refuse to provide services if it would violate their religious beliefs. And it would allow religious freedom to be used as a defense in civil or governmental claims of discrimination.
The bill also gives judges who might hear a religious-freedom case a statutory basis — citing the Utah Constitution’s protection of individual conscience and various Supreme Court rulings favoring religious liberty — to help them weigh religious beliefs against claims of discrimination.
Troy Williams, executive director for Equality Utah, which advocates for LGBT rights, called Christensen’s bill “radical,” by intending to allow the use of religion as a defense to discrimination claims, and vowed to defeat his bill.
And Atkin’s is not the only one up in arms over the bill.
Wednesday NAACP Salt Lake branch President Jeanetta Williams (video) said simply this bill would destroy Utah’s civil rights laws and would be a dangerous setback to our state’s recognition of civil rights.
“Religious Liberty” bills have popped up in at least 5 states around the country at the time of this writing.
The Human Rights Campaign and other powerful LGBT advocacy agencies have been disturbingly quiet on this very dangerous and harmful anti-gay strategy.
The multi-million dollar LGBT advocacy agency the Human Rights Campaign has sent this website an emailing questioning our “journalistic integrity” and demanding that we change the above story to reflect that they have not been silent on this issue. Just very, very quiet by issuing only 2 press releases on its website in the month of February. Meanwhile we still wait on some word, any word about involvement, strategy, or fight they have planned in the many states where these Religious Liberty Bills are slated and /or being discussed of if they are just going to do nothing like they did in Arkansas where a Religious Liberty Bill just passed.
Stephen Peters <email@example.com>
Feb 23 (1 day ago)
Good morning Will,
I noticed you did a story on the Utah “religious liberty” bill and claimed that the Human Rights Campaign has been “disturbingly quiet” about it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here is a link to our press release from February 12th sounding the alarm on this bill.
Please immediately retract this incorrect claim about HRC and let us know when completed.
Stephen Peters <firstname.lastname@example.org>
10:09 AM (6 hours ago)
Wanted to check back in on this. I noticed your story is still up saying the same incorrect statements about HRC. Again, here are two releases countering the claims made in the story:
February 6, 2015: DISCRIMINATION BY ANOTHER NAME: Advocates Sound Alarm on Wave of New State Bills
February 12, 2015: Calling the Question: Is the Mormon Church Behind a Racist, Anti-Semitic and Anti-LGBT Bill?
Please immediately retract the incorrect statements about HRC in the story and let me know when completed.
Will Kohler >email@example.com>
1:17 PM (2 hours ago)
One press release posted on your website does not make a loud noise and does not say what you are doing to rectify the situation.
1:22 PM (2 hours ago)
Will, you incorrectly state in the title “HRC Remains Silent” and in the body of the story, “The Human Rights Campaign and other powerful LGBT advocacy agencies have been disturbingly quiet on this very dangerous and harmful anti-gay strategy.”
This is completely false.February 12, 2015: Calling the Question: Is the Mormon Church Behind a Racist, Anti-Semitic and Anti-LGBT Bill?
For the sake of appearing to have any kind of journalistic credibility, we again ask that you retract your incorrect statements immediately.
Will Kohler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
2:11 PM (2 hours ago)
Oh I will change it.two reflect only 2 press releases have been issued and that Fred Sainz ignored my questions if HRC has any strategy for Indiana. Because really if you had any LGBT activism integrity you guys would be all over this and speaking out loudly and be on the ground in these states fighting hard instead of just issuing a few press releases on your website.
By the way my credibility is fine. Can you.say the same for HRC?
Okay all rectified.
The biggest LGBT advocacy agency in the country posts 2 whole press releases over the most dangerous thing facing the community at this time as if that really makes a difference. And then have then nerve to pick on an independent blog that speaks out against them and their ineptitude and lack of any REAL work against the Religious Liberty/Anti-Gay Discrimination Bill issue.
Do we all feel better about HRC now?
For shame Chad Hunter Griffin. For shame.