Focus on the Family

Media Clips: Public Policy Expert on Religious Freedom

by Catherine O. Snow

Bruce Hausknecht, Focus on the Family's judicial analyst, speaks with media outlets to provide clarity about current religious freedom legislation introduced around the country:  

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 Wall Street Journal logo 2

'Arizona Vetoes Religious Bill Critized as Anti-Gay'
Bill Would Have Allowed Business Owners Legal Defense to Deny Service on Religious Grounds
Feb. 27, 2014, by Tamara Audi, WSJ.com  
  

"... Supporters of the proposed legislation said the veto wasn't surprising, considering the enormous public opposition and what they contend was the miscasting of it as a discrimination issue. They argued it simply would have strengthened existing law to better protect the religious from violating their beliefs.

"Bruce Hausknecht of Focus on the Family, a conservative group in favor of the bill, said Ms. Brewer was 'intimidated by threats of economic retaliation against the state.'

"The governor's veto came after days of intense pressure from gay-rights groups, corporate leaders and high-profile politicians urging her to veto the measure, including former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Secretary of State John Kerry, Apple Inc., and the National Football League, whose Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in the state in 2015.

"The bill sought to expand an existing law that says the government cannot 'substantially burden' the practice of religion without 'compelling interest.' The bill would have added churches and businesses to a list of protected entities and would have allowed businesses and individuals to assert religious freedom as a defense even when the government isn't a party in a legal case.

"As similar religious protection bills failed or were tabled in other states, Arizona became the focal point in a national debate over when religious freedom becomes discrimination. Backers of similar legislation in Ohio scrapped their bill Wednesday after outcry from civil rights groups. ..."

Read entire article here.

  

AZ Republic logo

'National Firestorem Around Legislation Surprising to Some'
Feb. 27, 2014, by Mary Jo Pitzl and Yvonne WIngett Sanchez, AZcentral.com   

"... SB 1062 would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses facing discrimination lawsuits if they could prove they acted upon a 'sincerely held religious belief.'

"But a number of forces helped transform last year’s relatively obscure bill into this year’s national, and even international, controversy: swiftly evolving acceptance of gay rights, a more intense nationwide push by religious conservatives for such legislation, a loud outcry from legislative Democrats and fewer distractions at the Statehouse.

"Both attempts to enact legislation that proponents said was driven by a desire to protect religious liberties and that opponents said targeted gays for discrimination ended in a veto. But this year's version met its end in a crescendo of public outcry.

"In contrast, last year’s bill had a fairly quiet passage, eclipsed by the hot-button issues of Medicaid expansion and a fight over the state budget.

...

"Developments outside Arizona also influenced the response, said observers inside and outside the state. SB 1062 was introduced against a backdrop of opposing social forces.

"Tracey Stewart, assistant regional director for the ADL, said her group worked against the bill last year and this year. This time, current events helped shape how the public viewed the bill, she said.

" 'On a national perspective, many other states are going through the same thing, and are choosing to pull back on their bills,' she said, citing efforts to pass similar legislation in other states that have stalled.

"On Wednesday, the sponsors of an Ohio bill that mirrored SB 1062 withdrew their legislation. Earlier this month, measures in Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee that were touted by supporters as protecting religious liberties were withdrawn or rejected.

"At Focus on the Family, a religious conservative group, judicial analyst Bruce Hausknecht said lawmakers nationwide are taking up the bills in response to the expansion of gay rights, including marriage equality.

" 'That’s prompted a rise in state legislatures passing religious-freedom legislation, trying to beef up their own protections, because they're seeing how vulnerable they are,' he said."

"The New Mexico court ruling that upheld a gay couple’s discrimination lawsuit against a photographer who refused to take pictures of their commitment ceremony helped highlight the battle between religious-freedom and gay rights, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA.

Read entire article here.