Changes to Religious Freedom Bill Requested by Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Last Friday The River City News told you about a bill that passed the Kentucky House of Representatives with wide bipartisan support (including approving votes from every member of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus) that could undermine the authority of human rights ordinances passed in Covington, Louisville, Lexington, and most recently, Vicco.

On Tuesday the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights issued this news release:

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, along with the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, urge state legislators to amend House Bill 279 to guarantee the ability to enforce already-existing civil rights laws, which protect people from discrimination. The House passed the bill last week and it is now before the Senate.

House Bill 279, as amended, purports to protect individual religious freedoms by allowing individuals to “act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief…” On its face, the bill seems to support the rights of religious freedoms guaranteed by the national and state constitutions. However, upon closer examination, the legislation could be used by an individual or entity under the guise of a “sincerely held religious belief” to violate the constitutional and civil rights of other persons or organizations. In other words, it could make discrimination legal if the discrimination perpetrated is claimed to be due to “a sincerely held religious belief.”

For this reason, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights urges the Senate to amend HB 279 to include language that specifically allows for the enforcement of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and all local ordinances, which are designed to guarantee the civil rights of all citizens.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the authority that enforces for the Commonwealth of Kentucky the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which makes discrimination illegal. The Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission enforce local ordinances that also protect people in their regions from discrimination.