Religious freedom bill could threaten to derail fairness laws

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - A religious freedom bill is making its way through the General Assembly. Some say the bill will protect individuals from government interference in matters of faith, but others worry it will take away other civil liberties.

House Bill 279 states that government shall not burden a person's or religious organization's freedom of religion.

"Obviously that's something the ACLU of Kentucky supports," said American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky spokeswoman Amber Duke. "Freedom of religion is a fundamental right. It's something that's protected by both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions."

The bill would also grant the right to act or refuse to act on religious grounds.

The ACLU of Kentucky is concerned the vague language of the bill could erode civil rights that already exist in the state and trump local fairness ordinances.

"We are trying to strike a balance to make sure that House Bill 279, if it does pass, strikes the proper balance between individual's religious freedoms and other civil rights protections," said Duke.

While groups like the ACLU say the bill represents a potential threat to civil liberties, church leaders say the legislation represents a push back from the Christian community.

Daryl Cornett, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Hazard, says he thinks the bill is an attempt to establish legislation to protect Christians from having to condone behavior they can not accept.

"They don't hate homosexuals. They're not looking to hurt anybody. They're just saying we can't approve that behavior. We believe it's wrong," Cornett said.

Cornett says he believes the nation is moving toward greater acceptance of homosexuality, and Christians need protections for their beliefs.

The bill cleared the House March 1 with a vote of 82 to 7. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

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