Rep. Bob Ballinger and a host of other like-minded legislators today filed an act nominally intended to protect religious freedom. They call it the Conscience Protection Act.
What it’s meant to protect is people who claim a religious reason for discrimination against others. The core:
Religious freedom preserved. A state action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion in this particular instance:
(1) Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
The bill allows lawsuits by those offended.
This is a can of worms. Conscience clauses particularly become troublesome in health care practices — a pharmacist who refuses to dispense a birth control pill, for example; or a hospital that refuses to perform a life-saving abortion. I can see the law invoked in discrimination against gay people on religious grounds. And many, many more.