Michigan: Help Stop Bill That Makes Religion an Excuse to Ignore the Law, Harm Others

December 8, 2014

The Michigan House of Representatives has just approved a bill that places religious beliefs and practices above the law — and we need your help to prevent the bill from being considered by the Senate.

The rights to believe and worship as one wishes are, and always have been, strongly protected in Michigan by both the Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution. Further, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976prohibits discrimination based on religion, and includes certain exemptions for religious institutions.

But this proposal, called the “Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” would allow religious institutions and believers to use the concept of religious freedom not as a shield, but as a sword. It provides for a “broad protection of religious exercise,” allowing institutions and believers to avoid complying with general laws simply by claiming it “substantially burdens” their religion in some way.

For example, under this bill:

  • Health care providers could deny services, such as dispensing birth control, based on their religiously based objections; 
  • Child day care providers and parents could make decisions regarding their children’s health according to their own conceptions of “religious faith,” instead of accepted standards of safety and public health; 
  • School officials could be prevented from protecting students against bullying if the bully based their abuse of students on religious grounds;
  • Religious organizations receiving taxpayer dollars for social services could discriminate in hiring and providing benefits;
  • Religious employees could claim all manner of exemptions from certain workplace rules, and religious employers could discriminate against individuals who have different views on religion or who are LGBT.

The Center for Inquiry has always defended freedom of religion for all, and will continue to do so. But this bill does not aim to protect this freedom; it aims to place religion on a pedestal, where it can be used as an excuse to disobey laws that everyone else must follow. As a result, the equal rights of all Michigan citizens, religious and secular, would be put at risk.

This proposal is not just unnecessary — it’s dangerous. CFI urges you to join others in calling or writing your state senator now and telling them to oppose this measure!