FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Kentucky Spokesperson Angela Cooper regarding House passage of House Bill 43 to give religious organizations legal immunity:
House Bill 43 is a very poorly drafted bill veiled as legislation to protect religious liberty. It could be construed to provide unprecedented criminal and civil immunity for religious organizations.
Under the guise of providing protections for worship services during a declared state of emergency, the bill could create broad criminal and civil immunity for religious groups by effectively prohibiting the government from enforcing any law against religious organizations, as long they claim to be exercising their faith when engaging in unlawful conduct.
No new legislation is necessary to protect religious worship during emergencies. The Kentucky Constitution and Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act already protect religious freedom. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings affirm that, although some limits on worship services are permissible in rare circumstances, these restrictions may not be more severe than restrictions imposed on comparable secular gatherings. This rule protects the right to worship while ensuring that courts and public officials have the flexibility needed to adequately address the worst of disasters.
We wrote to the House of Representatives to express our concerns and the robust protections Kentuckians already have.
The ACLU has a long history of defending Americans’ rights to either practice or be free from religion. With House Bill 43, the General Assembly has presented another solution in search of a non-existent problem – one that may have dangerous consequences.