ARTICLE

'Religious conscience' bill too focused on gay couples, group says

A group dedicated to preserving what it sees as the fundamental principles on which America was founded says the recent debate over a Religious Conscience Protection Act should not have focused so intently on marriage. (Gazette file photo)
A group dedicated to preserving what it sees as the fundamental principles on which America was founded says the recent debate over a Religious Conscience Protection Act should not have focused so intently on marriage. (Gazette file photo)

A group dedicated to preserving what it sees as the fundamental principles on which America was founded says the recent debate over a Religious Conscience Protection Act should not have focused so intently on marriage.

American Principles in Action, a 501(c)(3) organization, said the proposed act, House Study Bill 50, is needed, but was doomed because it focused on same-sex marriage. The bill would have allowed Iowans with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against same-sex couples.

“Iowans must have their religious liberty protected,” said Shane Vander Hart, the group’s communications director. However, HSB 50, which failed to get out of subcommittee, was not written in a way to accomplish that.

“We believe the focus on marriage made a law that should have bipartisan support, more divisive than it should be,” he said.

The group wants to see Iowa adopt language similar to conscience protecti0on acts in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

House Judiciary Chairman Rich Anderson, R-Clarinda, who chaired the subcommittee hearing that attracted about 75 people – most of them opposed to the bill -- said it’s likely dead for this year. However, he left open the possibility it would be offered again.

Anderson reported met with Danny Carroll of the The Family Leader, a social conservative group, to discuss changes to HSB 50.

As it was written, HSB 50 would have provided an exemption for religious groups, including schools, charities and fraternal organizations and their employees, from recognizing same-sex marriage if doing so would violate the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of the group or individual.

Opponents said it created a “path to discrimination” and would devalue the concept of religious freedom.

Others argued the conscience protection act was needed to protect the religious liberty of people whose faiths do not recognize same-sex marriage. They were concerned about religious schools and groups providing family services, including adoption.

After the subcommittee meeting Feb. 9, Anderson said he doesn’t know the future of the bill.

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“There are issues that people have, and we just have to continue to work on it,” he said.

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