News Release: House of Representatives Applauded for Passing Several Religious Liberty Policies

December 4, 2014

(Lansing, Mich.) — Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) today is applauding the Michigan House of Representatives for passing several bills that protect religious liberty rights for citizens and faith-based entities across the state. Creation of a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies, and school attendance records that respect religious holidays all passed the House this afternoon and now await consideration from the State Senate.

“For the House of Representatives to pass out these important policies today indicates the level of respect that lawmakers have for religious liberty,” said Tom Hickson, MCC Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. “Diversity and tolerance are welcoming principles for Michiganders; what better way to promote these values than to uphold First Amendment religious freedom rights.”

The three religious liberty issues passed by the House today are:

Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — House Bill 5958, sponsored by Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), models the federal RFRA bill that passed Congress near unanimously in 1993 and was signed by President Clinton. HB 5958, which passed the House Judiciary Committee this morning, recognizes the right for citizens to express their sincerely held religious beliefs in the public square without fear of discrimination or coercion from the government or other sectors of society. 19 states have similar statutes as the federal law does not apply to the states.

Conscience Protections for Child Placement Agencies — House Bills 4927, 4928 and 4991, sponsored by State Representatives Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond), Ken Kurtz (R-White Lake) and Tom Leonard (R-Lansing), respectively, codifies into state law the work that non-public, faith based agencies have conducted for decades on behalf of Michigan’s most vulnerable children and families. In effect, the legislation will protect the long-established relationship between the State of Michigan and faith based agencies in the field of adoption and foster care placements.

School Attendance Records — House Bill 4454, sponsored by Representative Kate Segal (D- Battle Creek), would ensure that a school that grants an award or recognition for attendance does not hold an absence for a religious holiday against a student for award granting purposes.

“Religious liberty is neither right nor left, liberal or conservative,” said Hickson. “The free exercise of religion without threat of government interference is paramount and deserves swift consideration from the State Senate.”

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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