Louisville Forum debates new Religious Freedom Act - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville Forum debates new Religious Freedom Act

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Does Kentucky's new Religious Freedom Act really protect religion, or does it potentially cause discrimination? The issue is still raging weeks after the bill became law.

It was one of the most controversial bills passed by the General Assembly this year, surviving a veto by Gov. Beshear.

An event today in downtown Louisville showed the debate is far from settled.

It is a short bill, just eleven lines long. But as evidenced by today's Louisville Forum, it's generating a lot questions.

"Does this new legislation give me a pass?"

"What was the specific reason for the speed with which this went through?"

"What do you believe, specifically, this law will do for you or will take away from you?"

The General Assembly passed the bill to give legal ammunition to those who may oppose laws they believe violate their religious liberty.

Supporters say the action was motivated by the case of the Amish men in Western Kentucky jailed for refusing to place orange safety triangles on their carriages.

"I worry about the encroachment of government on religion. As a Christian, as a Southern Baptist, I worry about that for my own faith. I worry about that for everyone's faith," said State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, A Republican from Hopkinsville and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But opponents call the law a Pandora's Box that opens the door to discrimination.

"Religious reasons have been used to support things that we now all agree are wrong," said Dr. Cynthia Campbell, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church.

"I think civil rights, the Fairness Ordinances, could be challenged with this, medical decisions for children, immunizations," said State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Louisville Democrat.

But those who support the law say it simply returns the courts to the higher standard that existed before the Amish case. That the state has to prove a compelling interest before it infringes on religious liberty.

"I think we are better served by a court system that places high respect on those freedoms," said Dr. Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The Religious Freedom Act may now be law, but it's clear the controversy is not over.

"I do think it's something that we as the public should monitor and continue to debate. I don't think the debate is over," said Dale Josey, who attended the forum.

Supporters and opponents do agree that the bill will probably not be reconsidered by lawmakers next year. That means future fights will likely take place in the courts.

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