To Be Constitutional or not to be?

We have discussed before how legislation often doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. And it garners support for what people assume that it means based on its title; case in point, Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon’s ‘Religious Freedom” bill. To see it named such a title, most who don’t bother to read it or at least do minimal research on what it is would assume it’s to protect religious freedom.

At first glance, it is, that is until one starts looking into the wording of the bill. The first question that comes to mind is why would we need this bill if our religious freedom is protected in the bill of rights? Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. What the new law does is allow people to discriminate against other people using religious freedom as an excuse. It does not, however address the fact that by doing so, it denies the victims it creates THEIR freedoms. Not just religious but others as well. The exact wording of the law can be found here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/SB/129 .

Let’s take a closer look what the act says. The first section describes that it’s an amendment to title 50 of the Georgia code. The meaning of that is simple. It’s an amendment to change what title 50 says….language we’re use to in the Constitution. So that part is easy. Then it goes on to say what its intent and purpose is. First, to preserve religious freedom; doesn’t the Constitution of the United States do that? So this act is not needed for that. Then it goes on to say ‘to provide for legislative findings and purposes” and my first question there is what findings and what purposes? If I had to guess I’d say to give support for allowing for something title 50 does not allow for. Essentially, it will be determined by any lawyer that can justify any given case.

As we go further, that will become clear. “To provide granting of relief” is likely interpreted as a relief of a burden. The definition of said burden is left undefined so that it can be interpreted widely. This was done intentionally. They WANT it to be interpreted widely so as to allow for it to be applied to anything and everything they want to use it for, thereby gutting the laws that prohibit what they are working to allow for. “To provide for definitions” leaves it open for the definitions of anything they want it to apply to, case specific…again leaving it wide open to interpretation. “To provide for short title” heaven knows what that means. The other parts of this law are scary enough to make it dangerous without interpreting that short piece. “To provide an effective date” means just what it says probably, but what effective date? And how can that be used? These are questions we have to ask because any law and its language are subject to interpretation and often are interpreted in such a way as to benefit whoever has the most money to pay for its interpretation in their favor. “To repeal conflicting laws”…..WHOA….WHAT? What laws? Any law that conflicts with the purposes this law is intended to support? Here is where the big problems begin. We’ll continue with that further in. Finally on this statement of purposes of this act, “and for other purposes”, another one of those wide open statements intended to allow for wide interpretation. It could be used for any number of things.

The meat of this law is that one small portion of the first paragraph which can also be found in the last line of the act. This is the whole root and foundation of this act.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex or ethnic origin. If a business owner believes he is superior to anyone that this law protects, he can claim it’s a “sincerely held religious belief” and render this law null and void, thereby repealing this conflicting law. It also allows for them to discriminate against interracial couples. I know this sounds extreme, but this act allows for such extremism. (Which is pretty much the point in opposing this act) (http://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/herman/reports/futurework/conference/staffing/9.7_discrimination.htm) –

Pregnancy Discrimination act of 1978 was intended to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to included prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women. Under this proposed Act, if an employer decides he doesn’t like the fact that one of his employees is unmarried and pregnant, he can claim it’s against his religion and he cannot employ a woman who is pregnant but not married and fire her, rendering the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 repealed according to the terms of this act. (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/pregnancy.cfm)

This Act would also head off any anti-discrimination legislation that could come in the near future, such as LGBT protections. All they would have to do is claim religious exemption to the new laws and continue to discriminate at will.

This supposed ‘Religious freedom” Act is an abuse in that it allows business owners to deny anyone who works for them their own rights, making the business owners rights prevalent over anyone else’s. Not only that, but it allows them to deny service to anyone they wish to deny and call it against their religion. Think about that for a minute. People own a business and their rights are more important than the rights of the people who work for them. Rich people’s rights are more important than the rights of the middle class and the poor. Isn’t that EXACTLY what the founding fathers were trying to protect us from? Isn’t that part of the oppression that many were escaping when they came to the United States? And consider this; if a person is denying their employee birth control because it’s against the business owner’s religion, isn’t that forcing that employee to conform to the religious beliefs of their employer? Does that not deny the citizen her own rights to religious freedom? So in that sense, how does THIS law protect religious freedom?

And then there is the most important issue. The Grand Poobah (in the words of Fred Flintstone) of all applications of this act. The one for which it was intended; The Affordable Care Act. If there is one thing the rich are pissed about, it’s that the Affordable Care Act forces them to provide decent healthcare options to their employees. Federal law requires them to provide preventive services in EVERY policy and they have to be paid at 100% of the allowed amount. So the cost of these policies is bound to go up because this is better coverage for everyone, right? Actually, no. The cost is contained because if you utilize your preventive care consistently, you will head off any illness that could be seriously costly by catching and treating it early, thereby reducing costs before it even happens. And healthy employees don’t call out sick, but that’s a different blog altogether.

(a) The General Assembly finds and determines that: (1) The framers of the United States Constitution and the people of this state, recognizing free exercise of religion as an inalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and in Paragraphs III and IV of Section I, Article I of the Constitution of this state, respectively;

Okay, this says the framers of the constitution and the people of the state recognizing the free exercise of religion as an inalienable right. But who determines who is exercising that right? In the first amendment, it says the free exercise thereof but it does not say unless you work for someone of a different religion. It says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or free exercise thereof. Meaning Congress isn’t allowed to make laws respecting one religion over another nor any law restricting the free exercise thereof. It does not make exceptions. Does not this act respect the religion of a business owner over that of his employees and his customers? Does it not also inhibit the free exercise of the religion of those employees or customers in favor of that of the business owner?

Then it goes on to give additional excuses for a need for this law as (2) Laws neutral toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;

Could be interpreted as laws that prohibit discrimination interfere with religious exercise, therefore they need to be eliminated. Or perhaps any law that was passed to protect people could be used to hurt the people. Isn’t that exactly what this act is doing? Sure looks that way to me.

Then (3) Governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling Justification.

Okay, it’s obvious that they’re calling cost a burden. But how could providing services to a mixed couple or a same sex couple be construed as a burden to religious exercise? It’s obvious now what “other purposes” refers to isn’t it? And the reasons for leaving the law wide open for interpretation is also obvious.

I think I’ve made my point in interpreting the purposes and extreme possibilities of this law evident. Need I go on? Lines 24-42 of the act merely cite cases the writer seems to believe justify the creation of this act in that they allow for similar interpretations of the law. He considers them justification. He then uses discrimination as justification for this law. But his interpretation of discrimination is to claim discrimination against those being prohibited from discrimination. It’s hardly justification to create this law, opening the floodgates to wash the state and any state that follows suit back into the 1960s.

(a) Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section. (b) Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is: (1) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) The least restrictive means of achieving that compelling governmental interest.

Again, this section is dependent upon the interpretation of the term “substantially burden” which is left wide open to interpretation by the terms of the act. This being said, anyone that can pay more has the potential to swing the judicial interpretation their way. That’s not to say all judges are corrupt but the Supreme Court has shown that some of its members tend to rule in favor of whoever has the ability to pay more or whoever has more financial pull. (Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby) At least one has contradicted himself in his own rulings in order to please the “right side” of the argument. The point in this statement is that this law opens the door for this kind of corruption. Without going too deep into interpretation on this portion of the act, it speaks loudly to me of money, ‘big government’ having too much control and it costing business owners. You know the typical tea party approach to how things work in their world. And I don’t have to express how I feel about that. My blog name says it all on that score.

(c) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this chapter may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against government.

Relief in this clause of course means relief from the burden of having to treat someone fairly under the law; or relief from following the anti-discrimination laws because they are hurting you in some way. The fact that not enforcing these laws on you because you have a religion you think exempts you from treating people fairly and as human beings is hurting those you’re discriminating against, don’t you think? Business owners want a free pass from enforcement of federal laws based on their religion. How is that fair and balanced?

And then there’s this: In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of this chapter, the court or tribunal may allow the prevailing party, other than government, a reasonable attorney fee as part of costs.

They want you the tax payer to pay the court costs that it takes to gain relief from the burden treating you like an equal human being and using their religion as an excuse for doing so. Heaven forbid a rich man pay a fee to get things ruled in his favor.

My main point is this. Men make laws and give them simple names that encourage the ignorant to support them. By not exploring the meaning of such laws, we do ourselves a disservice. There are likely still many who read this who disagree with my take on it that still have not made the connection that if these laws allow a “Christian company” like Hobby Lobby to deny their employees birth control because they don’t believe in it, that it also means a “Muslim company” could begin to force women to wear burkas or even fire them because a woman’s place is in the home, not in a man’s working world. These laws don’t specifically name Christianity as the definition of religion. So one may assume this is putting God into the laws of this country and its “Christian values” but it’s not that specific. Do you want people of other religions forcing their beliefs on you?

I thought not.

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2 thoughts on “To Be Constitutional or not to be?

  1. Yes, to all of the last paragraph, especially! The only people I’ve met that support this bill, are lawyers (cough cough Josh McKoon; conflict of interest; cough cough), ultra conservatives, and ‘old school’ Christians. And usually the last two go together…okay, maybe 99.99%. People never believe it will be used against them. They’re so busy comparing Obama to Hitler that they don’t realize the irony that they are completely ignoring how their party is slowly starting to take away the rights of others and eventually, they’ll come for them too when religion no longer suits the party’s needs. Remind you of a few different times in history when one religion became the focus and it lead to death, destruction, and the socioeconomic downfall of the country? Because I’m over here having to count on fingers and toes, and I’m still not running out of examples. Yet, they’re the ones who insist we have to look at history.

    Sorry this is a long comment. McKoon makes my blood boil. Seriously he tries to deny that this legislation will get people coming to his law firm because he created this. I could be wrong on this part, but I thought I remembered him claiming to be a democrat years ago before his first election. I’m going to have to look it up. If it is true, it certainly doesn’t shock me. Just another politician doing whatever needs to be done to get elected and pad their pocket. He certainly didn’t care that we voted on this last time and said “we don’t want this.” It is disgusting how this crap gets pushed through by saying one thing to the public and sneaking language into the bill that makes it vulnerable to certain things or just flat out changes the meaning. I’ll stop ranting now, I swear. Lol

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