If enacted into law, HB 1023 turns religion into a veritable “get out of jail or lawsuits free” card for any state or local law. It exempts people and businesses from any government action or legal proceeding that “directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person’s exercise of religion.”
“(I)ndirectly inhibits … indirectly pressures” — that’s incredibly broad language, and it opens the door to all kinds of unintended consequences. And it applies “whether or not the exercise is … a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs.” In short, it offers a means to evade almost any law that can plausibly be claimed to offend even a vague religious sensibility.
The Anti-Defamation League, a longtime champion of religious liberty and an opponent of the bill, points out just a few of its potential consequences:
* “It would create a strong new affirmative for criminal defendants charged with drug-related crimes, sexual assault or rapes of spouses or children, or child endangerment.
* It would allow law enforcement to refuse assignments that they find religiously offensive such assisting or guarding a religious institution of a different faith, a pharmacy that sells prescription contraception, a liquor store, a butcher shop selling pork or beef, or a casino.
* It would allow public hospital employees including physicians, nurses, or administrators to refuse to assist patients, even on an emergency basis, or process any paper work that they find to be religiously offensive such as in-vitro fertilization, blood transfusions or psychiatric care.
* It would allow any public employee adhering to an extremist religion, including Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, or Odinism to refuse providing service to an Asian, White, Black, Jewish or Hispanic person.”