BY AJ TRAGER
LANSING – Freedom Michigan has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the religious freedom restoration acts that could directly impact the LGBT community.
RFRA Hurts was launched to raise awareness about the serious and harmful implications of the religious freedom legislation, that could open the door to LGBT discrimination in Michigan. The site includes access to pledge materials and quick contact information for Gov. Rick Snyder and local lawmakers.
“Religious freedom is a key American and Michigan value, that’s not up for debate,” the website reads, “but a so-called ‘religious freedom restoration act,’ or RFRA law, could have serious unintended consequences.”
Michigan currently prohibits discrimination due to religious beliefs against individuals in protected classifications such as race. However, sexual orientation and gender identity classifications are not listed among those classes. RFRA Hurts seeks to spread awareness on the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SB04. If passed, the bill could allow for corporate and individual denial of service, employment, housing and many other opportunities to LGBT citizens, on the basis of “deeply held religious beliefs.”
The website highlights two stories from everyday men opposing RFRA bills. The first account comes from an army veteran and retired police officer from Kalamazoo who testified against MiRFRA before the Judiciary Committee earlier this year. Todd Christensen believes the sponsors and supporters of this legislation have good intentions but he stands by his experiences in strongly opposing the legislation.
The second story comes from Roland Leggett. Leggett, married to a man and a father of two, is concerned with the consequences for his family were the MiRFRA bill to advance out of the legislature and into state law.
“When lawmakers pass these laws they think, ‘Oh, we don’t want a Christian baker to have to make a wedding cake for a gay couple’s wedding,’ but this is really about vital services that LGBT people need and whether or not they deserve to have these services be called into question because someone claims they have a strongly held religious belief,” Leggett said in his highlight.
SB04 was heard by a Senate committee April 28 (coincidentally the same date the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding marriage equality) despite raised concerns of business leaders and local government officials over the impact bills like RFRA could have on communities and the state’s economy.
National statistics conducted by Reuter’s University show 54 percent of the 892 individuals recently polled regarding RFRA laws said it was wrong for businesses to refuse services to LGBT identified individuals, while only 28 percent said they should have that right. Fifty-five percent said businesses should not have the right to refuse to hire certain people or groups based on the employer’s religious beliefs. Support for ensuring LGBT Americans had access to public spaces stood at 83 percent in contrast to 15 percent opposed.