Monday, August 17, 2015

Does Florida need a Pastor Protection Act?

Florida Pastor Terry Jones is probably not going to be asked
to solemnize many same-sex weddings.
Our citizenry and houses of worship do not require protections from gay people. Conservative Christians are intent on suggesting that we are a sinister threat to their way of life. In point of fact, it is  LGBT citizens who require protections from workplace and public accommodation discrimination by those same conservative Christians.

The text (see below) of Florida's so-called “Pastor Protection Act” has been submitted in both houses of the legislature. State Senator Aaron Bean (who filed the senate version) has said “I can’t imagine anybody being against this bill.” Well I am most certainly opposed.

If nothing else, this bill is inventing a problem that does not exist. Clergy are fully protected by the First Amendment. They have never been required to solemnize a wedding that does not conform to their religious doctrine and never will be. The suggestion that gay couples threaten First Amendment rights is offensive to the LGBT community. It's a political stunt at our expense.

In addition, this bill allows “religious organizations” to discriminate in public accommodations (nullifying local non-discrimination ordinances) without defining what a religious organization is. Some businesses owned by conservative Christians are defining their enterprise as a Christian business. Is that a religious organization? This amounts to an open invitation to wholesale discrimination. And you know, if they can — they most certainly will.
HB 43/SB 110

A bill to be entitled An act relating to churches or religious organizations; creating s. 761.061, F.S.; providing that churches or religious organizations, related organizations, or certain individuals may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for related purposes if such action would violate a sincerely held religious belief; prohibiting certain legal actions, penalties, or governmental sanctions against such individuals or entities; providing an effective date. Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: Section 1. Section 761.061, Florida Statutes, is created to read:

761.061 Rights o f certain churches or religious organizations or individuals. —

(1) A church or religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a church or religious organization, an individual employed by a church or religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy member or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if such an action would cause the church, organization, or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief of the entity or individual.

(2) A refusal to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges under subsection (1) may not serve as the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any entity or individual protected under subsection (1). Section 2. This act shall take effect 07/01/16 .

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