Time to Speak Up

I was at the Kansas Capital on Monday advocating for individuals with MS. I was there with others who care about issues that impact those living with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis. There were lots of appointments scheduled with Senators and Representatives. I knew the “religious freedom” bill was up for discussion that day, but honestly didn’t think much of it. However as the program portion of the day wrapped up and we got ready to make visits, we received word that many of them would be cancelled because the House was still in session discussing the “religious freedom” bill.

I have a twitter account, but I don’t tweet. And honestly, I only use it to check up on my kids. But someone more hip than me showed me how to follow the action in the house on twitter. I was truly riveted to the feed. It was shocking to hear the 140 character descriptions of what was happening. {As an aside, I think we just figured out why I don’t tweet…140 characters?} Just as I was considering going into the gallery to hear the discussion live, I saw they had voted. And it passed.

I will be the first to admit, I don’t totally understand our legislative process. And yes, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know exactly how things work. It has kept me from speaking out when I probably should have. I like to know the facts, know and understand what I’m talking about before I run my mouth. Not completely understanding the process or the legal verbiage used in bills keeps me from talking. I know enough to know, that I don’t know a lot.

But what I did realize, is that I do know enough to have an opinion. I probably understand the issues as well as the next guy. Maybe better on some topics and undoubtedly less so on others. I also realized from participating in advocacy days…our Senators and Representatives are just like me and the next guy. They know enough to be dangerous on some topics too.

In the interest of not sounding like a fool when I express my opinion, I try to be a diligent consumer of information. I watch sources; look at who wrote a piece, where it came from, how well it is cited. Essentially is it worth reading? I try to go to the source. I have read more bills lately than I ever imagined I would, in the interest of knowing what I’m talking about. {I tried but didn’t make it through the Affordable Care Act, but then neither did those who passed it:)!} I try. I try to understand where they were coming from and more importantly, what injustice or wrong is being corrected. What travesty avoided, what problem solved by any legislation that comes to my attention.

So when I read this bill had passed the House, I felt the need to read the text for myself. Now I’m not a lawyer, but what I read is concerning at best. Down right frightening the longer I sit with it. By my read, in my understanding of English, it sounds to me like this bill gives every person the right, based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to not only refuse to serve someone, but refuse to recognize them in very basic ways. And then it goes further to say that the individual being refused does not have the right to claim they have been discriminated against. Huh?

Let’s play that out a little bit. So my “sincerely held religious beliefs” call me to polygamy. I believe with all my heart this is the way God intended us to live. I also happen to be the clerk in the county office that issues marriage licenses. I have the right to refuse to issue a license to someone who is choosing a monogamous marriage. The idea of marrying just one person goes against the way I was raised, the faith I follow and my personal beliefs so I will not issue a marriage license to someone who believes differently than me. And don’t think you can sue me for this, because this law makes it perfectly acceptable for me to refuse to serve you. It even adds adoption, foster care, social services and employment to the mix. And I cannot be fired for refusing to do my job.

Sit with that for a moment.

Government employees, private businesses, big corporations, small mom & pop shops. They all have the right to refuse to serve someone who goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Every employee of every agency, business or organization. That’s a lot of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Certainly there must be a horrible injustice being corrected by this legislation. Well…So if…Maybe…Nope, I got nothing. I cannot figure out the problem. I can’t figure out the horrible oppression religious people in our state are experiencing to precipitate this law. I don’t get it.

It doesn’t pass muster.

The reality is, it is a thinly veiled attempt to take a preemptive strike against the inevitable ruling of the Supreme Court rendering gay marriage bans unconstitutional. It is a blatant attempt to single out a group of Kansans as less than. Less worthy of the pursuit of happiness we are all promised by our Declaration of Independence. It is glaring discrimination! Yet they have said it is not and just in case you don’t believe them, they will prove it by declaring you cannot claim it is. This legislation is dangerous. I don’t care where you stand on gay marriage, homosexuality or polygamy for that matter, this is scary legislation. And it is a giant leap back in time to a day when it was normal to fear those who are different from us. A time when our world views were so narrow, we would rather hate than learn about someone else.

On our vacation last spring break we drove through Montgomery, Alabama. We made a quick stop at the Greyhound bus station to read about the Freedom rides. One of the things that struck me as I stood there was how certain the whites were that they were doing the right thing. And how easy it was today to see how wrong they were.

If you live in Kansas, please get involved in the legislative process. Make your opinions known to your Senator and our Governor before it’s too late. This link will take you to the bill so you can read it for yourself. Go to openkansas.org to find your legislators.

If you don’t live in Kansas, please know that many of us are feeling like our state has been hijacked by a few with beliefs that I simply can’t understand; a real fear of those they don’t know. I am a conservative Christian and these people do not speak for me.

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Filed under Faith, Intention, The State of Affairs

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