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Rep. Quam thinks discrimination is OK if religiously sincere

by Eric Ferguson on October 11, 2015 · 3 comments

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that State Rep. Duane Quam, R-25A, plans to push a “religious liberty” bill that would legalize discrimination as long as said discrimination comes from the discriminator’s “sincerely held religious beliefs”. The bill isn’t yet on the House web site. Post Bulletin reporter Heather Carlson says it’s 56-word bill and describes it thus:

The legislation is broad, stating simply that “no person, organization or entity shall incur a civil or criminal penalty for refusing to provide a service, or refusing to allow the use of property or facilities for any activity that is prohibited by or is against the person’s, organization’s or entity’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Quam said the legislation would protect people of all religious faiths from violating their beliefs. All too often, he said, individuals are seeking out religious individuals who own businesses and forcing them to go against their beliefs.

Carlson quotes Quam saying, “The principle should be government shouldn’t be making you do stuff you don’t want to do”. Yep, we all hate it when the government makes us do stuff we don’t want to do. I hate stopping at that stupid stop sign at the intersection down the block. I have places to go! If you don’t like how I drive, pick a different street! Damn nanny state.
That’s assuming he drafted it himself. Pardon my lack of shock if “drafted” or “authored” turns out to mean the usual conservative ideologues’ practice of sticking a legislator’s name on an ALEC model bill.
Presumably as Quam is “drafting” his bill, he’s thinking just about legalizing discrimination against gay people, whose existence challenges some people’s religious beliefs, and I have a feeling such challenged people includes Quam. However, from the bit quoted, maybe to be revised once the whole bill can be seen, Quam “drafted” something very broad. As worded, any sort of discrimination would be legal if whoever discriminates claims a sincerely held religious motive. What’s the test for “sincerely held”? I guess take the discriminator’s word for it. Is it aimed at gays? Probably, though the people who used to ban non-whites from their restaurants and motels used to claim religious justification for their racial views. Not that they don’t claim religious justification still, but the law doesn’t back them anymore. Quam would protect white Christians from such government intrusion. “White Christians”? He didn’t specify that, but does anyone really think that Jews refusing to do business with Christians or blacks refusing service to whites is going to go over well with the people who back “religious liberty” bills?

Carlson interviewed a spokesperson for the Minnesota Family Council, Autumn Leva:

Leva said she could not comment on Quam’s bill because she has not had time to study the possible ramifications. Her organization did help draft the “Freedom of Conscious” [sic] bill that is being sponsored by Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. The bill is much more narrow than Quam’s proposal, focusing only on allowing certain small businesses to refuse to provide marriage-related services to same-sex couples.

Oh, Gazelka’s bill is narrowly tailored to discriminate just against gays; well, that’s much better. Would it make sense to allow the Christian baker to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a Jewish couple, or a Christian florist to refuse to sell flowers to Muslims? How about a Protestant refusing services because he feels that makes him part of a Catholic wedding? How about a gay business owner refusing to rent reception space to a Christian conservative couple because he objects to their religious views? Quam seems to want to use the excuse that there’s somewhere else to go — an excuse acceptable in no other cases of discrimination.
When I hear of Christian conservative bakers objecting to selling a wedding cake on the grounds that makes them participants in the wedding, I wonder if they would object to selling a birthday cake on the grounds it makes them a year older.
Maybe what Quam, Gazelka, and the owners of Discriminatory Wedding Services Inc. can’t figure out is that if you want to participate in the public marketplace, enjoying what the public gives you in terms of public roads to move your goods on, publicly educated workers, a publicly funded police force to protect you, and a public court system to uphold your contracts, then you can’t discriminate in terms of which members of the public you serve. The gay people you keep out, the non-white people you keep out, the non-Christians you keep out, and the people from the side of town you just don’t happen to like, help pay for your roads and courts and police, so you don’t get to refuse to do business with them.
From Dog Gone: Scary groups on the right, indeed — and persistent in seeking preferential treatment for their religious beliefs aka bigotry. Because that is what they are doing, trying to have their beliefs receive greater importance and consideration and priority over others choices and beliefs.
I think you are missing the greater target here. The radical right in MN has, I think, given up the battle largely, against gay marriage. In Kentucky, where two of the cases that went before the SCOTUS legalizing gay marriage originated, a FOIA request turned up the information that as far back as two weeks after her election as county clerk, Kim Davis was looking for ways legally to get around issuing gay marriage licenses, through legislation like this same religious freedom decision, in anticipation of a gay marriage victory. And of course she knew where to go to get the legal help, ultimately, although who contacted whom to pursue a religious liberty challenge to the SCOTUS is not entirely clear.
No, I would argue that the same people who brought us the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby, no provision of contraception to employees and are fighting the Kim Davis fight in KY, are looking as much, OR MORE at abortion issues as gay rights.
Since we aren’t seeing similar test cases here among county government employees in Minnesota, my guess is that as with the prior religious exemption legislation for businesses — AND INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES — this is going to focus on both gay marriage and abortion/contraception products and services. What they are looking to do is to give legal cover to someone who doesn’t want to do their job, like a pharmacist, or even a cashier, from being fired for not doing their job on religious grounds. If they can pass something like this, then a company like Target, or any of the drug store chains couldn’t fire someone either for their religious-belief-based justification to not do something that would normally be part of their jobs. In theory, under this kind of legislation, fundie-religious teachers in public schools might even be exempted from teaching the theory of evolution. I don’t think this is really meant to be so narrow; they just want to make it seem that way, imho, to write camel’s nose into the tent legislation giving them all kinds of religious presence they don’t have in a secular society that favors separation of church and state. I am skeptical as much at what they say as what they don’t say, given the apparent implications. Those go beyond their desire to discriminate.
Unless they are Muslim of course — God forbid someone won’t ring up that bacon you wanted to buy from the grocery store, we can’t have that.
Gay marriage is becoming steadily more acceptable even among conservatives. The predicted or claimed harms just haven’t happened. (Well, I suppose you could posit that God has a shitty sense of geography about the planet he created on the fly in seven days by inflicting floods on South Carolina, when he should have been striking down Minnesota dams and bridges, etc., but it’s not a persuasive argument.)
No, I would suggest this is an attempt to take another bite out of the successful Hobby Lobby anti-abortion apple. I would point out that sincerity of belief was never challenged in that case, just claimed. They didn’t have to prove it, and no one is going to try to contend someone doesn’t believe what they claim because that is impossible to prove. And fact did not enter into it, because it was sufficient they believed for example, that IUDs were abortive in function, not contraceptive, contrary to science, and Hobby Lobby had previous to their SCOTUS case been providing IUD insurance coverage and had investments in contraceptive manufacturers from which they profited. No, this bill would have to allow a person covered by it to have sudden over-night conversion to a belief if that was something they wanted to claim.
The same ALEC connected legal people behind Hobby Lobby are certainly behind this. I would suspect that it is the hope of uniting support from the anti-abortion folks to get behind this that the MN legislators are looking for in the face of declining MN opposition to gay marriage. They’ve had better luck on that issue nationally.
It is also worth noting — and I will elaborate on this in another post in the series on Kim Davis later this week — that the Kim Davis issue is inextricably connected to the governor’s race in KY next month, which is centered on issues of abortion, contraception, and Obamacare. That race is tight in an off-year low turnout election, with an extreme tea partier candidate Bevin within margin-of-poll-error of the leading liberal candidate, Conway. BOTH candidates have now come out in support of some form of limited religious freedom legislation if they are elected. Winning the KY governor’s race is contingent on one part of the state which is heavily conservative and where that religious liberty issue is a hot button. Conservative Bevin wants to repeal their Obamacare legislation at the state level and support repeal of Obamacare at the federal level. Because abortion, contraception, etc.
And it is worth noting that the MN Family Council is pushing much harder at the moment on anti-abortion propaganda than on fighting gay marriage, particularly pushing those discredited PP videos.
So sticking it to gay marriage is probably a screen for really trying to resurrect some form of that earlier legal protection legislation relating to abortion and contraception, imho. They may CLAIM it relates to gay marriage, given the news coverage of those fights, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that these laws will all be drafted so that an anti-abortion/anti-contraception exemption and suit would fit in under its umbrella.
Hobby Lobby is the real religious exemption they are looking to push, I would bet. They want another test case, somewhere, maybe here, they can take to the SCOTUS to expand on that success for business owners, small or large. Good post!
From Dog Gone: I wonder as well, would the owners of any of these businesses MIND if — due to sincerely held religious beliefs, of course — a snow plow driver chose not to plow their street, or patch potholes. Or if after a bad storm, if a utility repair person refused to restore their power, in a belief that the person who lost power had been targeted by God for special wrath?
Because as we see with Kim Davis, these right wing nutjobs want all these special exemptions from doing the job they took an oath to do or at least took expecting to do the job for everyone applies to those public employees as well as private. I doubt snow plow drivers take an oath to uphold the Constitution on the job, but they could have strong philosophical disagreements, which might be covered by these laws.
I’m guessing if these jerks couldn’t get out of their driveway and down their roads other than by sled dogs or snowmobile that they would feel very discriminated against, and that they would very suddenly cease to give a tinker’s damn about the individual religious freedom OF ANYONE.
Over and over I have said this; we need a strong federal government to stop conservatives from finding new state level ways to behave badly. EVERY damn states rights issue, and now religious freedom issues, are about behaving badly when you dig down to why they propose them. Heck some of them are quite brazen on the surface about doing exactly that; no digging required.

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