Rally… as Religious Freedom Bill Dies in the Senate (video)

mbrew brought to you by top adRally Supports Equality as Religiouslisa schmidt law Freedom Bill Dies in the Senate (video)

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 18, 2014)

In Ferndale Thursday night dozens of people rallied to show support for equality, and disapproval of a bill that would give people with a deeply held religious belief the right to have their religious beliefs trump laws that require them to treat all people with a basic level of fairness.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was introduced by Republican Jase Bolger in response to efforts to add sexual orientation and gender expression to the State’s Civil Rights Act. Amending the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act was blocked in committee, yet the religious freedom bill passed the House of Representatives.

Detroit_GT_05The Senate had been expected to take up the bill, but ultimately Senate Majority Leader Republican Randy Richardille of Monroe did not add the vote to the agenda for the Senate. The bill could be taken up in 2015. “We’ve got these young, fresh people who just got elected clamoring to take on difficult issues,” Richardville told the Detroit Free Press. “There’s not much left for them to work on. But they might get a chance with this one.”

In Ferndale religious leaders stood with elected officials, equality activists, and people of all ages and demographics to speak to the common theme of love and acceptance over division and persecution.

“I’ve been an activist in our community for over 40 years,” said Reverend Ric Beattie of Renaissance Unity Church in Warren. “I’m 59 and one of the reasons that I’m here is because I will never go back to the way things used to be. We were living on the edge, living in the shadows of things. People of my generation never even dreamed that we would be assembled here today. People of my generation never dreamed we might havechazzano game ad a hope for marriage equality. People of my generation would never have dreamed we’d have this discussion in public. I’m here to make sure we continue to move forward, because I will never go back.”

For Ferndale Pride organizer, and co-organizer of the rally Thursday, Julia Music, defeating the bill was about keeping fellow LGBT and other minority groups safe no matter wherever they go. “Although I believe Ferndale is truly a paradise where we can be exactly who we are, we should be able to seek a pleasant peninsula no matter where we travel in Michigan. We should not be in fear when we travel outside of Oakland County,” she said.

Music also spoke on one of the many issues of allowing religious beliefs to be an excuse for denying service or access to others. This issue is a concern for women needing birth control and people who may need hormones. “If I am denied medication at a local pharmacy, I have the choice of another pharmacy. But someone in the upper peninsula might not have that choice.”

Another issue is that of discrimination and hate crimes. Yonne Sifred is the Director of Victimessential Services for Equality Michigan. Her job is to document cases of discrimination and also to provide resources and support for people who are victims of crime because they are LGBT. “None of the stories I hear have anything to do with love or any religion I’ve heard – only fear,” she said.

Religious exemptions can also be used to allow young people with religious beliefs to belittle other young people based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or their family type. The Ferndale School Board passed a resolution before the rally in support of amending Elliott Larsen. President Jim O’Donnell spoke on the impacts of government-sanctioned inequality. “Kids are affected by bullying, harassment and intimidation that leads to the crisis we have with you suicide, youth depression. That affects our kids’ ability to learn. In seed8989483RudySerra dec jan febschools we know that creating a hostile environment for people based on sexual orientation and gender status drive away people that we want to teach or students. So we’re losing highly qualified, highly talented teachers as they move out of Michigan,” O’Donnell said.

Reverend Robert Schoenhals of Ferndale First United Methodist was one of several faith leaders who spoke at the rally. “My religious says I don’t have the right to play God. We don’t need a law that gives people the right to play God,” Schoenhals said. “We’re not here to decide who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy, who’s unworthy, who’s right, who’s wrong. We are placed here as a gift to each other in this world, to learn how to love and live together.”

Deacon Angela Marie Lippard of Good Sheppard Independent Catholic in Ferndale said “Religion is often used as a weapon. My faith is a tool. It’s a way to show love, acceptance. It’s an agent of change.”

In addition to doing the official duty of welcoming folks to Ferndale, Councilperson Dan Martin shared his view, stating “I want to add that as a person of faith that any level of hate and discrimination that gets codified into law is not a Christian value. It’s not a Jewish value. It’s not a Muslim value, or a religious value. It’s just wrong to warp the concept into anything of the such, to justify a means to set a population of people aside and we have to continue to say no.”

While the religious freedom bills did not make it to the Senate floor for a vote, it is possible that it will be taken up again next year.

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