Wisconsin Republicans propose dangerous religious discrimination amendment
Wisconsin Republicans are proposing a so-called “religious freedom amendment” to the Wisconsin Constitution that is not a religious freedom amendment. In reality, it’s a religious discrimination amendment that, if it were to be ratified, would allow Wisconsinites to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of their fellow Wisconsinites.
Here’s how Article I, Section 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution currently reads:
The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, without consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship; nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies or religious or theological seminaries.
The Republican-backed proposal would add this to Article I, Section 18:
The right of conscience, which includes the right to engage in activity or refrain from activity based on a sincerely held religious belief, shall not be burdened unless the state provides it has a compelling interest in infringing upon the specific action or refusal to act, and the burden is the least-restrictive alternative to the state’s action. A burden to the right of conscience includes indirect burdens, such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or exclusion from programs or access to facilities.
The proposed amendment, if ratified, would turn a shield of protection against religious discrimination into a sword that Wisconsinites could use to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of fellow Wisconsinites. The amendment would allow pharmacists and pharmacies to refuse to dispense birth control and other forms of medication that are generally recognized as safe if used as directed. The amendment would also allow employers to pay women less than men. The amendment could allow public officials who are authorized to marry people to refuse to marry interracial couples.
Theoretically, the amendment, if ratified, could allow anyone who is charged with a crime to invoke the amendment as a legal defense in order to get away with committing crimes such as murder, rape, assault, battery, robbery, embezzlement, racketeering, fraud, and other serious crimes. The amendment could, at least theoretically, allow people to effectively declare themselves to be above the law in the State of Wisconsin simply by invoking the amendment as a legal defense in criminal court, effectively turning Wisconsin into a modern-day version of the Wild West.
The proposed religious discrimination amendment in Wisconsin would undermine women’s rights and allow for Wisconsinites to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of their fellow Wisconsinites. If the proposed amendment makes it to the ballot in Wisconsin, I urge Wisconsinites to vote against it.