That religious freedom is being used as an argument against giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people protection from discrimination is extremely ironic. After all, religion is one of the existing protected classes.
Yet freedom of religion is one of the central talking points of those in opposition to city ordinances, such as the one this week under public discussion in Hutchinson. And it is the nature of a bill that passed the Kansas House last week aimed at thwarting such ordinances.
LGBT people want equal opportunity protections extended to them so they may not be refused employment or housing based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. But opponents say such protection infringes on their religious beliefs.
Making LGBT a protected class at the state level has been a lost cause, which is why the Kansas Equality Coalition is working at the local level to get it into city ordinances. The Kansas Religious Protection Act, which passed the conservative House Thursday, essentially would allow employers and landlords to ignore such ordinances by claiming that homosexuality is against their religion.
This argument is inherently flawed, for one, because requiring employers and landlords to have a reason other than sexual orientation or gender identity for not hiring or renting to a person — job qualifications or credit worthiness, for example — in no way infringes on their freedom to practice their religion. Freedom of religion was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution so that Americans may enjoy the freedom to go to the church of their choice on Sundays, preach from the street corner and so on.
And because we live in a world of many religions, protection also was offered in equal opportunity laws. The current protected classes in federal and state laws are race, color, age, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry and, yes, religion. So right now, an employer cannot refuse to hire and someone cannot refuse to rent to someone just because he is Jewish, Muslim or Christian.
And yet even though devout Christians enjoy such protection, some seek to deny it to others who today face discrimination for who they are. Christians should remember the many times during their history when they faced discrimination.
— The Hutchinson News