American theocracy? Montana adopts law that allows people to challenge regulations that interfere with their religious beliefs
Signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte on Thursday, the Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires the state government to have a compelling reason to override a person’s constitutional right to freedom of religion, and mandates that any perceived violation of that right be done in the least restrictive way possible. Similar legislation has been adopted by 21 other states.
A spokesperson for Gianforte’s office said in a statement that in the past, such laws have been used to “allow Native American children to wear braids in school, Sikhs to wear turbans in the military, and Christian employers to refuse to cover abortions under their health insurance policies.”
But critics said the bill would open the door to discriminatory practices in areas such as housing and employment.
The law will allow individuals to “turn the shield of religious freedom” into “a weapon” to attack the LGBTQ and indigenous communities in Montana, Shawn Reagor, director of Equality and Economic Justice with the Montana Human Rights Network, told the Associated Press, adding that the provision goes against the spirit of the state’s “live-and-let-live” values. He said that the provision violated recent court rulings, as well as ordinances of five Montana cities and counties.Also on rt.com Baker who declined service to gay couple sued for refusing to make ‘gender transition’ cake
Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras reassured the public last month that the bill was not a “license to discriminate” against the LGBTQ community, but judging by responses on Twitter, many seemed to still take issue with it.
“I’m seriously at the point of just discriminating against religion,” read one comment. “We are NOT a theocracy, and fed the hell up with people hiding behind the facade of religion to then use it as a weapon.”
Another comment accused Republicans of wanting to “mandate” religion.
“Only a matter of time before the bishop becomes head of state?” one sarcastic reply read.
Wow. These "conservatives" really are conservative In the sense they want to go back a thousand years to gauge their laws. Only a matter of time before the bishop becomes head of state?— wear a damn mask!! 😷 🇺🇲🌎🌐 (@igintl) April 23, 2021
Still, it’s unclear how the law will actually be used in practice. One local journalist noted that Montana has a Declaration of Rights that protects from discrimination, and that some legal experts believe nothing will fundamentally change.
~HOWEVER~ Montana has a Declaration of Rights that protects from discrimination in a bunch of ways. So some legal experts will say it's not clear how the RFRA will change anything. These protected rights may just be duking it out in court, like they were before. pic.twitter.com/B9k0QPMa9U— Mara Silvers (@mara_silvers) April 22, 2021
History also suggests that the legislation is not exclusive to Republican governments. In 1993, former President Clinton signed a similar bill into law, which allows individuals to challenge federal regulations that interfere with religious beliefs.
The issue of how religious convictions intersect with anti-discrimination laws has become the subject of ongoing debate, following the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple getting married, citing his Christian beliefs. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which handed the baker a partial victory after ruling that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was guilty of anti-religious bias when it sanctioned him for refusing to make the cake.
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