Thursday, May 14, 2015
A press conference was held on April 29th, in Topeka, to urge legislators to oppose SB 175, which would allow religious groups at public universities to discriminate against members, and yet still receive public funding through student fees for their club. Universities have strict "all-comers" policies that prohibit any kind of discrimination, therefore many groups opposed this discriminatory bill presented as "religious freedom."
The organizations present to oppose SB 175 were: the ACLU of Kansas, and their Executive Director Micah Kubic; the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, with Rev. Kent Little, president Vickie Stangl, and board member Viki Cheatum; Brandi Fisher, Executive Director with Mainstream Coalition of Johnson County; Sandy Brown, with the Peggy Bowman Second Chance Fund and the president of Douglas County NOW.
Reporters were present to listen and ask questions regarding the opposition to the bill. Later in the day, it was announced by Speaker Merrick that he was not planning on giving SB 175 a vote in the house.
Vickie Stangl, president of the Great Plains Chapter of AU, says religious freedom bills are really religious tyranny bills. "Religious freedom doesn’t mean you have the right to harm another person with your personal beliefs in the public square. Everyone has the right to believe what they choose but when another person’s faith harms the civil rights of others in the public square, that is going too far and twisting the very meaning of religious freedom."
Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of AU, pointed out in the May edition of Church & State magazine, that these so called religious freedom bills have grown out of the federal law called the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act." That act was intended to respect the private religious practices of individuals, such as a Muslim inmate who sued to keep his beard while in prison. RFRA was not intended to allow religious groups to dictate public policy on issues that would affect millions of American citizens in the public arena, and harm their rights.