Colo. bill fails to safeguard religious freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney available to media following testimony on ‘civil unions’ bill
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Attorney sound bite:  Kellie Fiedorek

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Counsel Kellie Fiedorek
WHAT: Testimony on religious liberty problems in Colorado SB 13-011
WHEN:  Wednesday, Jan. 23; Senate Judiciary Committee hearing begins at approximately 1:30 p.m. MST, though testimony may occur much later
WHERE: State Capitol, Old Supreme Court Chambers, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver

DENVER — Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Counsel Kellie Fiedorek will testify Wednesday on the lack of safeguards for religious freedom in a Colorado bill (SB 13-011) that proposes to create “civil unions.”

“Religious freedom belongs to everyone, not just a handful of people,” said Fiedorek. “The government cannot limit constitutionally-protected religious liberties in a way that’s foreign to the Constitution. This bill fails to ensure that those liberties will be respected for all Colorado citizens. The First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom for all Americans is not limited to the four walls of a church.”

Alliance Defending Freedom released a legal memo last week explaining how the absence of certain safeguards for religious freedom in the bill raises several constitutional concerns.

First, the bill does not provide protection for all persons who would be authorized to certify civil unions. Although the bill repeats the existing First Amendment protections for ministers, clergy, and religious institutions, it “is incomplete and proposes to directly undermine the religious freedom of other persons authorized to certify civil unions--such as a judge or magistrate.” Therefore, these persons may be unjustly forced “to violate their conscience and religious beliefs where conflicts arise.”

Second, the bill “proposes nothing to ensure that the government does not penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with clergy, a religious institution, or a religious organization, not to mention individuals and businesses that possess sincere religious beliefs about sexual unions and/or the importance of both mothers and fathers to families.”

Third, the civil unions bill “fails to protect and preserve the rights of all to recognize or participate in those relationships and events consistent with their religious tenets, including the usage of property or facilities.” As an example, the memo points out that the bill “would permit the state to penalize or refuse to contract with a faith-based child-welfare agency--like an adoption or foster agency--that, for religious reasons, strives to place children in homes with mothers and fathers.”

In addition, the memo explains that the bill “fails to protect many others, including pastors or counselors that provide counseling to couples in accordance with their deeply held religious belief,” as well as “wedding-venue owners, clerks and recorders, bed-and-breakfast establishments, bakeries, photographers, caterers, deejays, and perhaps others.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Fiedorek (Fih-DOHR’-eck)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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