Ky. Lawmakers Override Governor's Veto of Religious Liberties Bill

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By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
March 28, 2013|4:26 pm

Earlier this week, Kentucky lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to override the veto of the state's Democratic governor regarding a bill aimed at protecting religious freedoms.

Both the House and the Senate voted Tuesday to override Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of the state's new "religious freedom" bill, or House Bill 279, which protects a person's "sincerely held religious beliefs" against government infringement unless the government can "prove a compelling governmental interest in establishing a burden on the freedom of religion."

Tuesday's vote resulted in a House vote of 79-15 and a Senate vote of 32-6 , effectively overriding Beshear's Friday veto and making the bill a state law in 90 days.

House Bill 279 was reportedly inspired by a 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court decision which required Amish residents traveling by horse and buggy to situate an orange, reflective triangle on the back of their buggy for traffic safety reasons.

Members of the Amish community argued that this law was an infringement upon their religious freedoms and brought unnecessary attention to their religious beliefs.

House Bill 279 has reportedly stirred controversy within the state's government, as opponents of the measure argue that it could warrant discrimination against gays and lesbians, among other groups.

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"The General Assembly's override of Governor Beshear's veto is a virtually incomprehensible endorsement of discrimination, and legislators should be held accountable by those who support the rights of women, children, people of color, and all Kentuckians made potentially vulnerable by this law," Chris Hartman, director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, said in a statement, as reported by the Lexington Herald Leader.

In a statement reported by Cincinatti.com, Beshear explained that he vetoed the bill because he feared it would result in protracted lawsuits against the state.

"As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation," Beshear said in a statement last week.

 "I have heard from many organizations and government entities that share those same concerns. Therefore, after giving this measure thoughtful analysis and consideration, today I vetoed the bill."

In a separate statement, Beshear later explained that he worried the bill would "cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals' civil rights."

Those supporting the bill, including the Family Foundation and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, argue that its purpose has been skewed by interest groups and the liberal media and that it in no way threatens civil liberties.

"The ACLU and the Fairness Alliance, along with a compliant liberal media, distorted this bill beyond recognition," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the Family Foundation, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

"The magnitude of this vote should send a message to these groups that this kind of deception is not appreciated by the majority of the state's elected lawmakers."

Kent Ostrander, the director of the Family Foundation, reportedly gathered with nearly 150 proponents of the bill at the state's Capitol building on Tuesday to rally for its passing, according to the Lexington Herald Reader.

"It is primarily a shield for people of faith, not a sword," Ostrander reportedly told the crowd.

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told the Baptist Press that contrary to what many have said about the bill, he believes it actually prevents discrimination in that it protects all religions.

"Much to the contrary, this law protects against discrimination. History has proven that religious freedom isn't to be feared," Chitwood said.

Proponents of the house bill also argue that it works in accordance with the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law aimed at preventing government laws which limit religious expression.

 

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