Perhaps you’ve been hearing about laws in Indiana and Arkansas (among other states) that would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against people—particularly, women and LGBTQ people—and to justify that discrimination as an exercise of religious freedom. These are called Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) laws, and Maine is one of several states considering a RFRA bill this year.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, protected by the Maine Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But unlike our existing religious freedom protections, this bill puts an individual’s beliefs ahead of the common good of all Mainers.
The federal RFRA law was the one that allowed Hobby Lobby to pick and choose which birth control methods their employee’s health insurance will cover. In many states, RFRA laws have already fostered lawsuits and discrimination (which seems to be disproportionately impacting women and LGBTQ people):
- In Texas, a public bus driver refused to drive a passenger to Planned Parenthood, citing his religious beliefs.*
- In Florida, an employer who believed pregnancy outside of marriage is a sin fired an unmarried pregnant employee.**
- In Georgia, a student enrolled in a university counseling program claimed that she had the religiously based right to defy professional standards and condemn gay clients.***
Maine already has strong protections for religious freedom, and there is no evidence that they are not working. Continue reading