Tuesday, April 19, 2016

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Condemns Recent State Religious Liberty Bills

Yesterday the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement (full text) condemning recent state enactments and proposals protecting religious liberty at the expense of equal treatment for the LGBT community.  The statement reads in part:
Religious freedom is an important foundation of our nation. However, in the past, ‘religious liberty’ has been used to block racial integration and anti-discrimination laws. Those past efforts failed and this new attempt to revive an old evasive tactic should be rejected as well. The North Carolina and Mississippi laws, and similar legislation proposed in other states, perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society.
The Commission said that it will shortly release a new report on the issue of religious liberty.

Two members of the 8- member Commission (Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow) issued a separate statement (full text) in their individual capacities asking their Commission colleagues "to please take a deep breath."  They argued in part:
none of [the state bills] deserves to be referred to in the derisive terms used by the Commission majority. Those that deal with religious liberty issues are not merely using religion as a “guise” or “excuse” as the Commission majority alleges. All of them address real issues in reasonable ways; none is simply an attack on the LGBT community.
This separate statement was not posted on the Commission's website, but instead on the website of The New American Civil Rights Project with a link to the statement appearing in an ADF press release.