Column: HB2453 is designed to protect everyone’s religious freedom

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

The Catholic Church considers ridicule and disrespectful speech and/or actions toward individuals with a homosexual orientation to be sinful.

We believe that each and every human being — no matter their sexual orientation or even if they commit behavior we judge to be immoral — must be treated with the respect and dignity owed to someone who is created in the divine image and is of such worth in God’s eyes that Jesus gave his life on Calvary.

The recent passage by the Kansas House of Representatives of the Religious Freedom Act (HB2453) has created a media uproar. The house sponsor of the bill and members who voted in favor of the Religious Freedom Act have been subjected to being labeled bigots, homophobes, and hate-mongers by national gay activists.

The secular press ignores the irony that the only ones spewing hate are the opponents of the bill. Gay activists either have not read the bill or they are purposefully attempting to mislead the general public about what HB2453 actually does and what it does not do.

For example, opponents of the bill have claimed that its intent was to promote broad discrimination against those with a homosexual orientation, suggesting that the bill would permit restaurants and other businesses to refuse to serve gays. This is simply not true. The law’s protections are only triggered in situations related to a marriage or related to the celebration of the marriage.

Why is the Kansas Legislature even considering a Religious Freedom Act? Because the federal courts, much like they did on the abortion issue 40 years ago, are poised to strike down all state constitutional provisions and statutes that prohibit the recognition of so-called same-sex marriage.

Even though the citizens of Kansas less than 10 years ago by an overwhelming margin passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, the federal judiciary appears to be prepared
to deny the validity and authority of any state regulation on the subject of same-sex marriage. It is in this context that the Religious Freedom Act HB2453 attempts to protect religious institutions and individuals from being coerced into participating in same-sex ceremonies.

Is the Kansas Legislature overreacting? Unfortunately not! With regard to religious institutions, there are states where Catholic Charities no longer has the ability to provide adoption and foster care services, because they will only place adoptive children with a married mother and father and not with same-sex couples as required by government policy. With regard to small business owners, there are several precedents in other states where Christian florists, photographers, and bakers have been investigated and even fined by the government for declining to provide services for same- sex marriage ceremonies, despite the business owners deeply held religious objections to same-sex marriage.

It is important to note that these businesses were not refusing to provide normal services to customers that they may have suspected or known to have a homosexual orientation. Their specific objection was to being hired to service or participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony and/or reception. Nor was it
the case that the same-sex couples in question did not have plenty of other vendors that were more than eager to serve them. These were cases where same-sex couples insisted that a particular business be coerced to provide services, even though it violated their deeply held religious and moral beliefs.

The bill is written to protect everyone’s religious freedom, not just those
who have moral objections to same-sex marriages. If a business objected to participating in a Catholic wedding, we do not believe our laws or courts should coerce them to do so. We do not believe the state should force anyone to violate their deeply held religious beliefs, unless it is absolutely necessary for the common good and there are no other viable options.

The gay activists have become masterful at bullying legislatures, universities and other institutions regarding their agenda. With a complicit secular media, they are able to assume the mantle of victimhood, even though they are the ones attempting to coerce others to violate their religious convictions. It is not enough for the courts to permit same-sex couples to co-opt the term marriage, but they want to force everyone to participate and approve.

On the other hand, the sponsors and co-sponsors of the Kansas Religious Freedom Act have been crystal clear about their intent. They have expressed openness to proposals of language that clarify the objectives of the bill. They are eager and willing to work with anyone who wants to help the bill achieve its purpose to protect religious institutions and individuals from being forced to violate their conscience as it pertains to same-sex marriage. The architects and supporters of HB2453 welcome amendments or even an alternative bill by the Senate that will clarify the narrow scope of the bill.

It has been said that you should not watch the making of sausage or laws. Neither is a pretty process. Still, thoughtful and respectful debate will help produce the best protections for religious liberty and conscience rights.

Please write or email your state representative and thank those who voted in favor of HB2453 for their efforts to protect religious freedom and ask those who voted against to support future efforts to protect religious freedom and conscience rights. Please write or email your state senator to express your concern about the courts striking down the current constitutional protection of marriage and encourage them to pass legislation that will afford the maximum protection to religious freedom and conscience rights for Kansans.

If you need any assistance or have any questions, please consult the Kansas Catholic Conference website at: http://www. kscathconf.org or call (785) 227-9247.

We must make certain that our legislators hear not only the voices of the gay rights activists, but also the many Kansans who want religious liberty and conscience rights protected.

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