Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, sees a war on religious freedom creeping toward Idaho, so today he introduced two bills designed to stem the tide. “There’s unfortunately greater antagonism toward religion,” Luker said. “We’ve seen government compel photographers, bakers and florists to be penalized for their religious beliefs. We’ve seen counselors in the field of psychiatry penalized for providing certain treatments.”
Luker brought the House State Affairs Committee two bills: One to prevent any kind of professional or occupational license from being revoked or suspended due to actions the license holder takes in accord with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The other would amend Idaho’s existing Free Exercise of Religion Act to expand it to cover cases in which the government isn’t involved, but one of the parties is relying on a government law or enactment; he said that’s in response to a New Mexico decision in which a photographer was fined for violating that state’s human rights law by refusing to photograph a same-sex marriage ceremony. He said that case arose because in New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law, that state “actually has added the words to prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation.”
Idaho hasn’t done so; its human rights law bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodates on the basis of race, religion, disability and other factors, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. “Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t imagine seeing what we see today in our legal issues,” said Luker, a lawyer. “You could call it a pre-emptive bill. The issue is coming, whether it’s 10 years, or 15 years, or two years.” The panel voted to introduce both measures, though several members had questions about how it would work; the move clears the way for full committee hearings on the bills.