SB192, the Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (NPRFA), is currently being considered by the Judiciary committee. NPRFA is a “statified” version of the federal RFRA (Religion Freedom Restoration Act), which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997 because it overstepped Congress’ power to enforce the 14th Amendment (City of Boerne v Flores). If enacted, it would “prohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion.”
It sounds like a good thing … right? It claims to compliment religious liberties in the U.S. Constitution. It even has bi-partisan support. But, the bill is ill-defined and is a back-door means of promoting religious rights above all others and allowing religious zealots to use that elevated religious right to discriminate against others at will — and if they’re not permitted to do so, it gives them the right to sue the state for damages. HELLO? What are we seeking to create, the Nevadaban?
Religious freedom is being used insidiously by conservatives across the country as an excuse for Christians to be bigots against the LGBT community. It’s also being used against women primarily in the form of denial to dispense birth control pills or “the morning after pill.” A case in point is a bill (SB 514) just recently introduced in Tennessee which would “bar schools from disciplining students if they decline to treat clients with “goals, outcomes or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student.” It would allow graduate student counselors to reject helping suicidal LGBT students, students who are sexually active outside of marriage, and students who have been divorced. Where did they get such a magnificent idea? Michigan! The egregious Tennessee bill would not only prevent counselors from being expelled or fired, it permits them to freely discriminate under the shield of religious freedom.
That’s exactly what Nevada’s SB192 would do … permit religious zealots to freely discriminate and deny good/services, all under the shield of religious freedom. Today, the State has the ability to weigh compelling interests and arrive at accommodations. If SB192 passes, that may no longer be the case as religious zealots begin their campaign of bullying to get their way, and if the bullying fails … expensive litigation (the ultimate form of bullying) to get their way will ensue.
Notwithstanding any provision of NRS 41.0305 to 41.039, 25 inclusive, but subject to the limitation on damages set forth in 26 NRS 41.035 when applicable, a person whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against the governmental entity. The court shall award costs and attorney’s fees to a person who prevails in an action brought against a governmental entity pursuant to this section.
Freedom of and practice of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. That concept is also generally recognized to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion. The freedom to leave or discontinue membership in a religion or religious group —in religious terms called “apostasy” — and IS a fundamental part of religious freedom. Belief and non-belief are opposite sides of the same coin — and one’s belief should never trump another’s dis-belief. I believe the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says it all and it should be the final word on this subject, no SB192:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
and given that all 50 States have agreed to the full content of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, that should should be enough.
- Republicans At It Again – New Tennessee Bill Allows Religious Counselors To Reject LGBT Students (addictinginfo.com)
- The HHS Contraception Mandate vs. the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—Introduction (National Review Online)
- The HHS Contraception Mandate vs. the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Ethics and Public Policy Center)
- The Temple Of Hercules Industries, Inc. (Huffington Post)
- Our Constitution, Undivided (Huffington Post)
- Supreme Court Rules That RFRA exceedsCongress’ Power (Civil Rights Monitor)