While boycott talk bubbles (that’s been a popular post today), I have a practical question about House Bill 1107, Rep. Rev. Scott Craig’s “religious freedom” bill: just what sort of “religious freedom” is it protecting?
Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, the state may not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that the person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that:
- Marriage is or should only be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
- Sexual relations are properly reserved to marriage; or
- The terms male or man and female or woman refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determined by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth [emphasis mine; House Bill 1107, Section 2, as passed by South Dakota House, 2016.02.08].
South Dakotans’ freedom to believe and speak what we wish about sexual matters (and notice that HB 1107 deals exclusively with sex and not with any other important issues on which one might express one’s religious or moral convictions, like a commitment to social justice or nonviolence) is already fully protected by the First Amendment. HB 1107 adds neither jot nor tittle to our effective freedom of conscience and speech.
But acts in accordance with… what does that phrase do? What “acts” is HB 1107 talking about?
Suppose one of Rep. Rev. Craig’s parishioners has a moral conviction that homosexuality is a sin. Add Section 2(1) and Section 2(2), and HB 1107 protects acts in accordance with that conviction. Does HB 1107 allow the faithful anti-Sodomite to punch a homosexual in the mouth to punish him for his sin?
Section 3 says the state can’t apply a fine or penalty against a person acting in accordance with a moral conviction about sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Section 5 says “A person may assert a violation of this Act as an action or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding…” and “any judicial proceeding” would seem to include the arraignment hearing a person would face when the police haul her or him to court for assault against a homosexual.
Rep. Rev. Craig and a majority of the House can’t intend to exempt literal gay-bashers from prosecution for violent crimes against homosexuals. Rep. Rev. Craig just wants to keep his godly baker friends from having to whip up wedding cakes for Adam and Steve.
But whatever Rep. Rev. Craig’s intentions, the text of his bill appears to say that if you beat the crap out of a homosexual, and you deliver that beating not because you’re mad or drunk or stupid but because you believe that homosexuality is a sin and that you have been called by God to beat the gay out of that poor sinner, the state cannot fine or penalize you.
Does freedom of religion include the right to beat up gays and lesbians? Nobody would write a law like that… would he?
Those sound like questions for Chairman and former law enforcement officer Craig Tieszen, Vice-Chair David Novstrup, former judge Arthur Rusch, and the other members of Senate Judiciary, who are the next body to get their hands on House Bill 1107.