5-March-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Kentucky religious liberty bill moves forward

A religious freedom bill passed Kentucky's House of Representatives on March 1 with strong bi-partisan support, and will soon be considered by the state senate.

After nearly 40 minutes of floor debate, the Democratic-controlled House passed the bill 85 to 7. It was sponsored by Bob Damron, a Democrat from Nicholasville.

The bill would require that Kentucky demonstrate both a compelling need to infringe upon religious freedom, and that in doing so, the methods used are the least restrictive.

"Government shall not burden a person's or religious organization's freedom of religion," the bill says. "A 'burden' shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities."

Safeguards against the violation of religious liberty have declined in Kentucky in recent years, which is why the state's Catholic Conference is supporting the bill.

In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to uphold religious liberty, but the Supreme Court later decided that that legislation protected only against federal limits to religious liberty.

Since then, some 13 states have already passed legislation similar to that being considered in Kentucky. Last year, the Kentucky Supreme Court lowered the standard by which the state can infringe on religious freedom.

Damron introduced the bill to clarify religious liberty in Kentucky, following last year's state supreme court decision, among others.

Opposition to the bill included comments about the Catholic Church.

"Several Democratic House members spoke Friday in opposition to the measure during debate on the House floor, saying it was being pushed by the Catholic Church so it would not have to comply with any state or federal laws that direct health plans to provide birth control or other contraceptives to women," according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

This comes in the midst of debate over the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer insurance coverage of contraceptives and of drugs that can induce early abortions, regardless of religious or conscience objections.

The ACLU of Kentucky expressed concern that the bill's language is too broad, and that it could undermine civil rights protections. The organization said it seeks "modest amendments" to make sure the bill has a "proper balance" between religious freedom and civil rights protections.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=7162#ixzz2MgCOJNln

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