Religious Freedom Proposal Shelved After Rep. Requires Businesses to Post Refusal Notice

Oklahoma Capitol Building pdOKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A religious freedom proposal that was meant to protect business owners who have faith-based objections to fulfilling particular orders has been shelved after a Democratic representative put forth an amendment that would require such businesses to post notices about their objections.

The Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, HB 1371, was introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Tulsa) to provide protections for those whose religious beliefs forbid them from being “partakers in other men’s sins” (1 Timothy 5:22).

“In any action brought under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, neither the State of Oklahoma nor any subdivision thereof shall be entitled to claim a governmental interest which purports to require any person to participate in any marriage ceremony, celebration, or other related activity or to provide items or services for such purposes against the person’s religious beliefs,” the bill read.

But Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), an opponent of the bill, submitted an amendment to the Act this week that would require such businesses to post notices stating which persons they would not serve.

“Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites,” the amendment read. “The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.”

A number of business owners across the country who have been involved in civil rights complaints have stated that they don’t refuse to serve homosexuals—that they have regular customers and employees who are involved in such relationships—but must draw the line when it comes to personal involvement in a ceremony.

“I was pretty flabbergasted [about the Religious Freedom Act] because it hearkens back to a time when we were legalizing discrimination on the basis of race, basis of gender—many other things that now just seem silly,” Virgin told local television station KFOR. “If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it.”

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However, now that Virgin added the amendment to the Act, the Religious Freedom Act has stalled and has been shelved for discussion.

As previously reported, in recent years, a number of states have been seeking to pass local laws similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by then-President Bill Clinton. The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill in December that some interpreted as providing protections for faith-based businesses, as well as conscience-based objections for employees of secular businesses.

Some opposed that bill as well.

“This bill moves us in a new and uncharted direction. It requires me and others to practice the faith of our employers, grocers and pharmacists,” Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) told those gathered. “I should not be forced to follow the religion of my pharmacist.”

“Do you think that Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy were extremists?” Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall, a Roman Catholic, told MSNBC. “We modeled [this bill] directly after what they did. I’m baffled to hear that what we’re doing is out of line.”

“I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” he also declared to the state Judiciary Committee. “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”


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