Religion, free speech, LGBT rights collide at KY Capitol
Senate panel passes two controversial bills.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Protecting religious freedom, or trampling the rights of others.
That is the debate over two bills advancing right now through the legislature.
Both bills easily passed the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection on Thursday. One deals with what you can say, the other with what you can do in the name of religion.
In 2014, the Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled that a printing company, Hands on Originals, violated the city's Fairness Ordinance.
The company refused to print a t-shirt promoting a gay pride parade, the owners saying it went against their Christian beliefs.
The case is still tied up in court, but it has now prompted Senate Bill 180.
Supporters are calling it a religious liberty bill.
“This protects businesses where the owner may have a religious objection to some service they're being asked to perform,” said Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky.
The committee passed the bill overwhelmingly, despite opponents' concerns that it would roll back civil rights for LGBT citizens.
“This definitely seeks to thwart the progress that we're making, and achievements that we've already made,” said Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign.
“It's not an advance for the LGBT community to prosecute people for their religious convictions,” countered Cothran.
The committee also passed the Charlie Brown bill, so named because a superintendent in eastern Kentucky deleted a scene from a school production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in which Linus quotes a biblical account of the birth of Jesus.
SB 106 seeks to protect religious speech in public schools, including school plays.
“The people that are criticizing this are the very ones that run around with this in their hand, and they're not at all hurt by or offended by the fact that this had "In God We Trust" on it,” said Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) as he waved a dollar bill in front of the committee.
Opponents call the bill ridiculous.
“We already have protections for freedom of speech and freedom of religion in schools, and so this is just completely unnecessary,” said Derek Selznick of the ACLU of Kentucky.
Both bills now head to the Republican Senate where passage is likely. But there could be a battle in the House where Democrats are protecting a narrow majority.
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