Be careful what you wish for

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on Utah’s HB109, “Religious Liberty Recognition and Protection Act” and how it may have unintended consequences:

[LaVar] Christensen has introduced HB109, the “Religious Liberty Recognition and Protection Act,” which says that religious liberty is a “valid defense to claims of discrimination by others.”

Christensen had been a speaker at an event hosted by the conservative think tank, the Sutherland Institute, which called on the Legislature to expand an exemption from nondiscrimination ordinances to include not just religious organizations but also religious adherents.

Gay and lesbian organizations believe Christensen’s bill will allow landlords and employers to discriminate against gays on religious grounds. But it could also open the door for discrimination against Mormons on religious grounds.

The Greenfield Daily Reporter cites the American Civil Liberties Union:

Marina Lowe, the legislative and policy counsel for The American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill is so broad it could permit many types of discrimination.

“The possibilities are limitless,” Lowe said.

For example, a landlord could refuse to rent to a gay couple or a doctor could refuse to treat a woman who is pregnant out of wedlock.

Lowe said the proposal lacks a prohibition on the government sponsorship of religion, so the exemptions could also extend to government agencies.

Civil rights attorney Brian Barnard said the law could provide a defense for the violation of a variety of laws in the name of faith.

“Polygamy is the one that comes to mind, but there are other religious practices,” Barnard said. “Peyote, for example, and the other one is churches, like the Episcopal church, that give wine to minors during the sacrament.”

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