religious freedom

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protestors. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

Thetoad / Flickr

Supporters of a religious freedom bill in the state Legislature are pushing back against recent criticism. The legislation is meant to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

Courtesy photo / Holland BPW

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Detroit’s pending bankruptcy exit, confusion over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and a Senate bill that would count the burning of tires, used oil and other waste products as renewable energy.


The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

The festival in past years.
The Arab American News.com

The festival has been canceled for the second year in a row due to higher liability insurance costs for festival organizers.

The three-day festival in Dearborn celebrated Arab culture and was one the largest gatherings of Arab Americans in the U.S., but it also attracted anti-Islamic protestors and Christian missionaries from around the country.

Niraj Warikoo reports for the Detroit Free Press:

Tensions at the festival broke out in 2010 when a group of Christian missionaries arrived with video cameras to record their attempts to debate Muslims. Some were arrested for disturbing the peace, though later acquitted of most charges. Their arrests drew outrage from conservatives across the U.S.

Another Christian group filed a lawsuit against the city, saying the missionaries were restricted in where they could distribute their literature. In 2012, a separate group of Christians brought a pig’s head mounted on a pole with anti-Islam signs, resulting in some youth hurling bottles at them.

Warikoo reports that Dearborn was forced to pay $300,000 to the Christian missionaries arrested in 2010.

The Arab-American Chamber of Commerce says they’re still looking for ways to move forward with the festival.

IaIvanova / Creative Commons

A federal appeals court ruled against a southeastern Michigan natural foods company that claims it should be exempt from the contraception provision in the federal health care law. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion today.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide workers with insurance that covers contraception.

gophouse.com

Those who disrupt religious services in Michigan could soon face much harsher penalties.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte, intended to prevent disruptions during worship events, cleared the state Senate last week.

From the Associated Press:

The fine for disorderly conduct at a religious service could go as high as $1,000, which is more than the maximum fine for many misdemeanors. A second offense could cost as much as $5,000. A judge could also order at least 100 days of community service.

According to a press release from Shaughnessy's office, the legislation was inspired by a 2008 protest at the Mount Hope Church in Delta Township. As part of the protest, members of a gay-rights anarchist group interrupted a service at the megachurch by throwing flyers, pulling fire alarms and shouting slogans.

The press release quotes Rep. Shaughnessy:

"The right of Michigan residents to gather and worship is not only guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, it is a right that must be respected by those with other beliefs...Nobody should fear disruption of their worship services by political opponents, and this legislation should shield them from such chaos."

The bill is now on Gov. Rick Snyder's desk awaiting approval.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(courtesy of the Alliance Defense Fund)

 State lawmakers heard testimony today on legislation that would protect college students whose religious beliefs conflict with their university’s curriculum.    There are concerns the bill might cause problems for university accreditation.