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Claims About Religious Freedom Bill Lack Evidence, Gov. Unsure About Veto

House Bill 279, which passed both the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Senate and is known as the Religious Freedom Bill, is headed to the desk of Gov. Steve Beshear who is unsure if he will veto it:

“I haven’t really had a chance to review it in detail yet. Once we get it, we’ll review and make some determination,” Beshear said.

More: cn|2

The bill, which says that someone who acts because of a sincere religious belief can’t be infringed upon unless the government can show “clear and convincing evidence” that it violates other laws (according to cn|2), became controversial when civil rights activists thought it could undermine human rights legislation and ordinances passed across Kentucky, including Covington.

Covington's Democratic State Rep. Arnold Simpson originally voted in favor of the bill but changed his vote after the outcry.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights asked for changes to be made to the bill out of concern for the human rights ordinances.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican who represents Covington and northern Kenton County, expressed his support for the bill in his weekly recap of Frankfort highlights.

Meanwhile, a report from the Associated Press suggests that concerns over the bill lack evidence:

Among their claims: Landlords could turn away gay or biracial couples. Women could lose access to birth control. Abusive priests could try to elude investigations. Churchgoers could challenge parking tickets.

There is little evidence to support these fears. Sixteen states have passed such laws, often called Religious Freedom Restoration acts or RFRAs. Experts say they're often underused, if used at all. And the people who do claim religious infringement lose in court more than they win.


Christopher Lund, a law professor at Michigan's Wayne State University, examined all 16 state religious freedom laws in 2010 for the South Dakota Law Review. He found that 10 states had only one or two reported RFRA cases. Four states hadn't seen one case decided under the law.

Victories were even scarcer, he wrote. The people who claimed infringement lost their court battles in more than half of the state cases.

The most high-profile claim of religious infringement - a case involving a Christian wedding photographer and a same sex couple - has so far lost in court.

Full story: AP

Photo: Kentucky State Capitol

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