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Testimony: ‘May jeopardize business in this state, make Idaho haven for extremists’

Monica Hopkins of the ACLU of Idaho said hundreds of people concerned about HB 427 are filling two overflow rooms plus the Lincoln Auditorium in the Capitol, all “to vigorously oppose HB 427 as an unnecessary and costly bill that may jeopardize business in this state and again make Idaho a haven for religious extremists and hate groups.” She said, “Remember that there are hundreds of religions, including the religion and church that was set up by Richard Butler in northern Idaho.” Hopkins said, “We are an ardent defender of religious freedom.” But, she said, “Laws protecting religious practice and freedom are already on the books.”

She offered examples: “What if you have a shop owner with a sincerely held religious belief that denies service, and you have a customer with a conflicting religious belief? … Do we really want the courts to decide … which religion should be exalted over another?” Another: “If a customer refuses to sign a loan agreement citing his religious beliefs, when the bank refuses to lend to him, could he sue under this? … It’s not a speculative thing, because there’s already a case in Florida to this point.”

Hopkins said a cake-baker who opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds could be in conflict with the same-sex couple whose sincerely held religious beliefs sanction it. Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, asked, “Do you think the cake would be as good if he did it against his will, rather than if he did it of his own free will and choice?” Hopkins resonded, “Since it’s getting close to lunch time, I would love to taste the cakes before I answer the question. But to be serious, I think in that situation, I think the examples that are being used are very specific to a certain religion, and the outcome of this we have to remember would apply to all religions. So it’s not just the cake-bakers. But certain religions believe that women should not eat in common places. And so would that mean that restaurants can now require women to eat in rooms in the back of restaurants? There are certain religions like the Christian identity movement that says races should not be mixed. Does that now mean that restaurants can deny service to interracial couples? … This is the exact reason our forefathers narrowly crafted the First Amendment.”

Rep. Kelly Packer, R-McCammon, said, “I do genuinely hold a high regard for religious freedom. I also do hold a high regard for not discriminating. My question – how do we protect that baker? … It’s truly an issue in other areas, and we don’t want to have the issue in Idaho. So how do we protect the baker, so to speak?”

Hopkins said, “Sincerely held religious beliefs are just that. … If we protect the cake-baker, in a specific situation, with a specific religion, that is dealing with one specific issue, that is same-sex marriage, then what is the protection for all those other faiths?”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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