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Senate Hears Late Attempt to Pass "Religious Freedom" Bill

Critics say if Senate Bill 283 becomes law, pharmacists in rural areas could refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions, citing a conflict with their religious beliefs. (Pixabay)
Critics say if Senate Bill 283 becomes law, pharmacists in rural areas could refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions, citing a conflict with their religious beliefs. (Pixabay)
April 12, 2017

Update: A state Senate committee advanced Senate Bill 183 on Wednesday. The measure was approved on a 3 to 2 party-line vote, with all Republicans in support. The proposal must clear the full Senate before moving to the Democrat-controlled House.

DENVER - The Colorado Senate's State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 183 today (Wednesday), a measure critics say would allow businesses and individuals to claim that their religious beliefs exempt them from non-discrimination laws.

Critics say the the bill is one more attempt to install "religious freedom" laws that, in effect, legalize discrimination in the state. Amanda Henderson, executive director and minister with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, said Senate Bill 283 is at direct odds with commonly held faith values.

"As a religious leader and person, I'm saddened and disheartened that they keep trying these tactics," she said, "instead of following the core beliefs of loving our neighbor and treating others as we want to be treated."

The Colorado House defeated a similar measure earlier this year, and bills also were introduced in the past two sessions. Their supporters argue there's a big difference between discrimination and a fundamental right to disagree, which they see as a core principle outlined in the First Amendment.

Henderson said there's nothing in Colorado's anti-discrimination laws that limits religious freedom, and disagrees that discriminating against anyone in a business setting is practicing religion. She said she thinks the move also would be bad for Colorado's economy.

"We can pretty much look directly to North Carolina and see the backlash that's happened economically in that community, and the division that it's created," she said. "You know, the economics are really clear."

According to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, the state lost hundreds of millions of dollars since passing HB 2, known as the "bathroom bill." PayPal and Deutsche Bank decided to move new jobs elsewhere, artists such as Bruce Springsteen refused to perform, and the National Basketball Association moved this year's All-Star game, which had been set for Charlotte.

Henderson said bills such as SB 283 don't reflect the views of the state or the faith community.

"The vast majority of Coloradans and the vast majority of religious Coloradans do not want to see our religion used to harm people," she said. "We see our religion as a force for good, in the community and in our lives."

The Colorado bill's text is online at leg.colorado.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO