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Idaho launches ‘pre-emptive’ strike to shield religious beliefs from gay rights

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho lawmakers and conservative Christian allies who contend faith is under siege by gays, lesbians and the government are launching a “pre-emptive” strike to bolster rights of licensed professionals to refuse service or employment to those they conclude violate their religious beliefs.

Idaho Statehouse in Boise.

Idaho Statehouse in Boise.

On Tuesday, Rep. Lynn Luker outlined a plan to shield religious people from the threat of having their professional licenses — issued for everything from midwives and doctors to physical therapists and nurses — revoked.

Luker, a Boise Republican, knows of no example in Idaho of an actual challenge to a professional’s license on these grounds. Still, he points to efforts by gays and lesbians elsewhere seeking to end what they contend is discrimination against them as a sign Idaho must act quickly to protect the faithful before something similar arises closer to home.

“This is pre-emptive,” Luker said. “The issue is coming, whether it’s 10 years, or 15 years, or two years.”

Among cases Luker cites as a catalyst for his proposal, which now awaits a full hearing, is that of a suburban Portland bakery that refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries determined that Sweet Cakes by Melissa unlawfully discriminated against the couple based on their sexual orientation. That case is in the midst of settlement talks.

New Mexico also has been scene of a court fight after a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, arguing she was exercising her rights to free speech and artistic freedom.

Unlike those states, Idaho’s Human Rights Act includes no such protections for gays and lesbians. Republican lawmakers have rejected efforts to add them.

Now, Luker, with the backing the Cornerstone Family Council advocacy group, says Idaho needs to go further, before somebody challenges whether license-holders have a duty to provide a service to somebody they’ve concluded is contrary to their religion.

Julie Lynde, Cornerstone’s executive director, says governments are increasingly passing or interpreting laws to block people from “living out their faith.”

“The free expression of religious freedom is no longer understood for what it was intended,” Lynde said. “There’s a double standard against people of traditional religious faiths.”

The Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses helps oversee 29 boards that issue licenses for professionals Luker’s measure aims to shield. Additionally, it extends a shield to nurses, doctors, teachers, firefighters and police officers, among others. If adopted, nobody could have his or her license revoked by a government agency or board for “declining to provide or participate in providing any service that violates the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

An exception: Emergency personnel couldn’t refuse to treat somebody, Luker said.

Additionally, he said, his bill doesn’t authorize “the intentional infliction of emotional or physical injury.”

Even so, Democratic Rep. John Gannon of Boise worried a doctor who received state taxpayer support for his or her education — through an existing Idaho program aimed at boosting medical professionals — could refuse to take on gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender patients.

Luker, a lawyer, said his bill only protects that individual’s license, but wasn’t a barrier to an employee being fired if he or she violates an employer’s policies.

Contacted Tuesday after the meeting, Tana Cory, who heads the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses, wasn’t aware of any instance when somebody refused service brought a disciplinary case against one of her bureau’s licensees.

American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho executive director Monica Hopkins also said she couldn’t think of a previous real-world application of Luker’s bill in Idaho.

“This is a solution searching for a problem,” Hopkins said.

Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, was skeptical Republican majority lawmakers will back the bill, once they grapple with its broad implications. For instance, she said, what if there’s a lone drivers-education business in a town whose owner’s faith teaches women shouldn’t drive? Or what if a restaurant denies service to women, on similar religious grounds?

Though hypothetical, Woodings said, these examples illustrate “the bill is fraught with issues.”

Similar measures have been introduced this month in Arizona, South Dakota and Kansas.

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72 more reader comments:

  1. It’s going to come back and slap them right in the face.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:33am
  2. Wonder when someone will start asserting that someone’s race violates their religious beliefs?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:35am
  3. Messing with the religious right. Before God made Eve there were only Atoms!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:38am
  4. So athiests or Non-Christians will then be able to refuse to render services to “Christians” citing religious beliefs. Got it. Be careful what you wish for…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:39am
  5. Toe-tapping.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:42am
  6. This is an exact re-enactment of what on the South in response to the enactment of Civil Rights laws in the Sixties. Bigotry is still bigotry. Sigh.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:43am
  7. You nailed it. This is just like the resistance to integration in schools that was found in deep southern states at that time.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:00am
  8. If faith is under siege it is because people are tired of them bashing everyone and trying to shove laws down our throats that we don’t want. Maybe it is time for the Churches to step back and look at how they sound to the rest of us. Their message seems to be one of bigotry,hate,resentment and intolerance, which I don’t think was part of the Bible, but then again, they could have rewritten it to fit their idea of what Christ should have done with all of these sinners. They probably think, if only Jesus would have done this, we would not be dealing with this problem of gay people having rights.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:52am
  9. I didn’t realize everyone being treated equally is being “besieged.”

    Maybe they should look at countries that actually persecute Christians. The majority of people in this country are Christian, and the people passing pro-gay laws, and ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, are most likely Christian. I have never, ever, in my life, seen someone made fun of for being Christian in real life. Conversely, I have never had a teacher or professor teach me atheism. In fact, the professors that hint at their beliefs the most are guess what… Christians.

    Maybe they should try being afraid to say who you are because you are afraid that you may be subjected to physical violence. Maybe they should experience not being able to hold hands or show affection to your partner depending on location, and looking over your shoulder. Maybe they should experience being rushed out of restaurants when there food isn’t half-eaten just because you’re an obvious gay couple. Maybe they should actually experience being bullied for the beliefs, in a very real way, up front, physically, and verbally. Maybe they should experience having to hide who you love to people that consistently talk about their.

    Until then, they have no right to say they are being persecuted.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:52am
  10. insanity in action…wasting tax dollars fighting the boogie man… why don’t these bigots grow up and just follow the teachings of JESUS…”LOVE EACH OTHER and DO NOT JUDGE”

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:53am
  11. If treating people unequally is part of your religion, then your religion is a fraud and should be banned.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:00am
  12. And then they will say murder is there religeouse beleifs, when will these crazy people stop.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:00am
  13. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whosoever calls themselves christian and is anti gay/anti gay marriage is nothing but a liar. They cannot truly call themselves christians, for if they were this would never have been an issue in the first place. The bible and god tell you to love everyone regardless of whether or not what they do is what you would agree with or do.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:01am
  14. I agree with david, the sunday morning christians know nothing about being harassed, its role reversal, spinning the lies into truth.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:03am
  15. Jesus said to love one another, not…unless anything about it, its very simple, people like this make it complicated.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:04am
  16. Since WHEN is LOVE anti Christian???????? Bunch of damn Hippocrates!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:14am
  17. Translation of headline: “Idaho lawmakers attempting to turn their state into the next Kansas”

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:17am
  18. Yeah, because we all know that Jesus told people to make war on anyone who’s different

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:17am
  19. When did businesses get to have a religion? Laws that protect discrimination?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:36am
  20. Amazing this has nothing to do with these fucktards it’s called equal rights! I’m sure god loves all of these self righteous haters

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:36am
  21. I think I’ll open my own business and then refuse service to Republicans because they violate my political views!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:38am
  22. They’re scared. I love it.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:41am
  23. That is horrible.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:53am
  24. Must be those right wing white TRASHERS.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:09am
  25. Arent there bigger issues the letting GLBT marry??!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:39am
  26. “Religious rights”
    Total bullshit….

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:50am
  27. All that wasted tax money should be paid back to the tax payers out of the salaries of the politicians that wasted it once it’s smacked down for being unconstitutional. Any politician who couldn’t see that in the first place is too dumb for office and needs to be thrown out.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:03am
  28. ” they are blocking our attempts to live out our faith” seriously!?!?!? And what are these bigots doing?!? They are blocking LGBT from living out their LIFE!!!! Fucking hypocrites!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:47am
  29. Religious fucktards always think their religion is exempt from laws or is above laws. They are not, so says the Supreme Court. The Federal gov’t sent the National Guard to Alabama to enforce desegregation, now is the time to do this again.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:49am
  30. Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:43am
  31. The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history… It will never be pretended that any persons employed in [creating the United States] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven… it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
    ··· John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government
    of the United States of America” 1787-1788

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:49am
  32. Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.
    .··· Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:49am
  33. Christianity neither is, nor ever was
    a part of the common law.
    ··· Thomas Jefferson, letter to
    Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

    The Government of the United States of America
    is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.
    ··· 1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Abrams

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:49am
  34. I love it how they attack us and then scream that we are attacking them.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:10am
  35. I am often embarrassed to live in Idaho.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:22am
  36. why is it so hard for them to lead their lives and let others do the same? why must they be so anal about something they know nothing of?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:32am
  37. I am ashamed to be an American, when we have politicians who think it is alright to even consider legal discrimination. Our founding fathers weep for what we have become.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:43am
  38. Just cut that evil pariah of a state away from the US!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 9:01am
  39. I have lived in Idaho all 26 years of my life and am a firm supporter of same sex marriage and if we don’t let gay’s live there lives to what they want then the people who run this state are just as big of ignoramuses as the people running this country into the ground enough said

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 10:42am
  40. It will all come out on the wash. But until then, some of us will pay a heavier weight than others.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:06pm
  41. Religioiius inteties……….running from love…..God IS LOVE !

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:29pm
  42. I await the day the other GREAT religion finally puts you in your place!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 1:59pm
  43. Tax the churches and label conservative churches as hate organizations!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:49pm
  44. I guess Christians didn’t threaten anyone’s rights?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:52pm
  45. No one should have to be forced to do anything, I think respecting them is better than lashing out

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:37pm
  46. this makes me sick they bitch and say there beliefs are under attack my ass.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 3:39pm
  47. Idaho, SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE MEAN SOMETHING.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:04pm
  48. I’m pretty sexual identity has been under siege by religious beliefs since, like, forever!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:53pm
  49. Wow

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:54pm
  50. Secrets eh? This one likes secrets... O.o

    Replied on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:56pm
  51. oh come now Idaho! Really?!? My home State… :(

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:56pm
  52. A bunch of retards… If you use federal funds to do business you have to follow federal laws.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:56pm
  53. Dam they’re on to us…lmao

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:57pm
  54. Well perhaps there is some judgement happening during the last days but attack?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 4:58pm
  55. Can’t fix Stupid.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:02pm
  56. Wanting equal rights and sharing tax laws ect., has nothing to do with any church any more then who someone sleeps with, get your nose out of everyone else’s bedroom. And churches who shield pedophiles have no right telling others how to live, what should be legally right, or to judge others. I am all for civil unions btw, separation of church and state period.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:07pm
  57. Home of the skinheads? Nah..

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:07pm
  58. THIS DOESNT MUSTER

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:10pm
  59. what an affront to their savior, acting completely opposite of how their jesus would have…they can’t even follow their own crap!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:12pm
  60. our lives are under siege by them…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:20pm
  61. And what happened to ‘separation of church and state’??

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:42pm
  62. So, does this mean Muslims don’t have to serve Christians or Jews? Or that Roman Catholics don’t have to serve anyone who isn’t RC? Isn’t this getting a tad silly? At this rate each of us can declare our own individual religion and tell the rest of the world to serve themselves.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:46pm
  63. How bout laws shielding us from religious beliefs.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:07pm
  64. Not all people from Idaho are this extreme. Unfortunately the republican run government in Idaho are backed financially. Time for a grass roots campaign. They voted down an anti-gay proposition back in the 90′s. They can do it again. Come on Idaho!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:46pm
  65. All in the name of religion. Sad indeed.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:22pm
  66. “Our religion is under attack! We’re being told we can’t discriminate against gays! That’s not fair!”

    I truly wish these people could hear how they sound, then compare it to the book they claim they follow.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 9:22pm
  67. This is state with a significant survivalist and Aryan minority. This isn’t all that surprising. That said, what fucking gay person would elect to go there anyway?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 9:53pm
  68. Fuck it

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:12am
  69. Someone’s faith must be very shaky and fragile if two people in love with whom they will never cross paths might destroy it.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:49am
  70. Gays and transgendered people are the ones needing protection. Fools

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:30am
  71. Idaho has many decent people. It’s not true that the Idaho population is mostly Aryan & survivalist. That is a small group of people in the Idaho panhandle. Strappo, gay people are born in Idaho just like they are in every other place. They shouldn’t have to leave just because they have a crazy state legislator.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 10:53am