SB 202, which will take effect Tuesday unless Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoes it, isn’t the only legislation pending that aims at protecting discrimination against gay people. A companion bill, HB 1228, by Rep. Bob Ballinger, has similar intent to protect “conscience” as a pretext for legal discrimination against gay people in matters unrelated to religious practice.

Rabbi Barry Block of Congregation B’nai Israel sent me the following statement signed by religious leaders in opposition to that legislation. “We are deeply concerned,” the statement says, “that the end result would impact negatively on religious liberty and on the religious vibrancy of our State.”


The backers of this legislation support free practice of THEIR religion and beliefs, but want to suppress those with which they disagree. If, say, a Baptist who abhors homosexuality wants to refuse to hire, rent to or serve a hamburger to a gay person, this legislation would allow that Baptist to invoke a religious pretext for doing so. 

The list of clergy endorsing this statement is noticeably short in the denominations that dominate most Arkansas cities. There is one Baptist, Judge/Rev. Wendell Griffen.

UPDATE: The list of signers below has grown, including another Baptist minister, Muslim representatives and others.


The statement:

Dear Friends in the Arkansas Legislature:

The undersigned Arkansas religious leaders have joined together to ask you to oppose House Bill 1228, “The Conscience Protection Act.”

Religion flourishes in America, and particularly in Arkansas, in no small measure because of the religious liberty guaranteed by the United States and Arkansas Constitutions. We cherish these liberties.

We are deeply concerned that H.B. 1228 would not serve religious liberty or the common good in Arkansas. Specifically, we worry that the Bill would invite misguided individuals to misuse religion as an excuse for a wide variety of discriminatory actions. Like the Arkansas Municipal League and the Association of Arkansas Counties, we fear that passage of this Bill into law would tie up our courts, our cities, and our counties with frivolous legal actions, using religion as a pretext. We are deeply concerned that the end result would impact negatively on religious liberty and on the religious vibrancy of our State.

Thank you for your dedicated service to our State and all of its people.
With blessings,

Rev. Maxine Allen
The United Methodist Church*

The Rev. Dr. Fred Ball, OFR
San Damaino Ecumenical Catholic Church*

Rev. Dr. Candace Barron
United Methodist Clergy*

Rev. Dr. Leslie Frances Smith Belden, Ph.D.
First United Presbyterian Church*

The Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield
Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas*

Rabbi Barry Block
Congregation B’nai Israel*
Little Rock

Rev. Carol-Ann Blow
River of Life Community*

Rev. Virginia Chase
United Methodist Church*

Dr. Preston Clegg
2nd Baptist Church*
Little Rock

Rev. Stephen Copley
United Methodist Pastor
Chair, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
North Little Rock

Rev. Wm. Christopher Cooper
Senior Pastor
First United Methodist Church*
Little Rock

Anna Cox
Ecumenical Buddhist Society*
Buddhist Meditation Teacher
Founder, Compassion Works for All*

Pastor Pamela Estes
Pine Bluff

Rev. David C. Freeman
United Methodist Ordained Elder*

The Rev. Gwen Fry
Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas*

Rev. Bill Galbraith
General Presbyter
Presbytery of Arkansas*

Rev. David Gill
Presbyterian Church (USA)*

Rev. Howard Gordon
Minister Emeritus
First Presbyterian Church*
Little Rock

Rev. Terry Gosnell
United Methodist Church*

Hon. Wendell L. Griffen
New Millennium Church*
Little Rock

The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Thayer Halime
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Islamic Center of Little Rock*

The Rev. Arnold W. Hearn
Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas*

The Rev. Lisa J. Hlass
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church*
Little Rock

Rev. Frank LeBlanc
Westover Hills Presbyterian Church*
Little Rock

Rabbi Eugene Levy
Little Rock

The Rev. Sam Loudenslager
Episcopal Church*

The Rt. Rev. Larry E. Maze
Retired Episcopal Bishop of Arkansas*

Dr. Frances “Freddie” Nixon
United Methodist Church*

Rev. K. Marie Mainard O’Connell
First Presbyterian Church
Little Rock

Rev. Holly Patton
Disciples of Christ*

Mohammet Qassas
Islamic Center of Little Rock*

Scharmel Roussel
Board Member
Arkansas Interfaith Alliance*
Little Rock

Sophia Said
Associate Director
ITSSM Interfaith Center*
Little Rock

Rev. Danny Schieffler
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church*
Little Rock

Rev. Wade Shownes,
Senior Pastor
Highland Valley United Methodist Church*
Little Rock

The Rev. Mary Vano
St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church*
Little Rock

The Rev. Scott Walters
Christ Episcopal Church*
Little Rock

Rev. Brittany Richardson Watson
Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church

*Organizations noted for identification purposes only.