Eye on the Opposition: KY Senator on RFRA’s Discriminatory Motivations
By Erik Maulbetsch •
September 22, 2015 • 4:10 pm
At Heritage Action’s Presidential Forum on Friday, September 18, 2015 Kentucky Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul was asked about religious freedom. Moderator Michael Needham framed the question by claiming that “some supporters of same-sex marriage are moving beyond their victory at the Supreme Court and seeking to pass laws that would coerce people of faith into participating in same-sex weddings. How should society balance the goals of promoting fairness and protecting freedom of conscience?”
Senator Paul answered by discussing an example from his home state, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even following the United States Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples. Sen. Paul says:
…I think you should have the ability to opt out of laws that go against your religious beliefs. But I’m not talking about defying the law. In Kentucky we actually have a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We passed it in 2013 precisely to give elected officials the ability not to participate in something they disagree with.” – Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Of course, no law grants public officials the right to refuse to perform certain duties or refuse to serve certain people based on religious beliefs – not even state RFRA laws. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides all the religious freedom protection Americans need. But extreme groups like Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom are pushing legislators to enact RFRA laws they claim are meant to protect people of faith. In reality, the laws are designed to legalize discrimination, often specifically targeted at LGBT Americans.
Senator Paul’s surprisingly blunt statement is a common and dangerous twisting of state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. Although state RFRAs don’t give officials a “right to refuse,” they are being used as an excuse to do just that.