Dangerous Legislation involving Religion in the Government

South Dakota’s legislative assembly and governor recently passed Senate Bill 149. This bill allows state-funded child service agencies, which include adoption centers and foster care homes, to refuse service based on religious belief and/or moral convictions.

While this should be allowed for private organizations that don’t receive any state aid, as it is their right to take in and/or reject profits and consumers, any religious bias allowed on a state level is not only wrong, but should not have any place in the US.

No matter what one’s position on the LGBTQ+ community is, there is one undeniable fact that needs to be consistent through all beliefs: the members of that community are citizens of the United States, and thus should be given the rights endowed to all others. While the right to marry and the right to have children aren’t outlined specifically in the Constitution, the Federalist Party of old, which many on the Religious Right like to name themselves after, believed that rights unenumerated in the Constitution aren’t worth any less than those enumerated. This includes one’s right to have a loving and caring family, no matter their orientation.

LGBTQ marriages and families do not take away from your own.

Additionally, the 9th Amendment states that any and all rights unenumerated in the Constitution shall not be limited but, rather, “retained by the people”. This is a basis for debate, however, since most unenumerated rights are dictated by court cases and the precedents set by them.

This type of legislation isn’t unique, sadly; similar bills in Michigan, North Dakota, and Virginia protect the rights of state-supported entities to refuse service on the basis of religious liberty.

Interested groups have not remained quiet about this series of events. The bill and others similar to it have come under attack by the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, asides from other allies of the LGBTQ+ community. “We’re deeply disappointed by Governor Daugaard’s decision to green light Senate Bill 149,” Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement issued Friday. “This discriminatory legislation takes South Dakota in the wrong direction, and sends the message that our leaders are more concerned with the desires of religious agencies than the rights of individuals and children in our state.” The ACLU said they are “examining legal options” in response to the bill.

Governor Daugaard, nor his staff, have commented as of yet on this issue.

This legislation begs the question of whether or not marriage is truly a right and, additionally, if religion has a spot in government policy anymore. While a majority of Americans, per a new poll on the Public Religion Research Institute, believe gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry and have a family, religious values run deep in a large swath of places, occasionally blurring the lines between religion and politics. Moreso, where does one’s beliefs begin, and another’s ends? Many questions need to be answer in the tumultuous years to come.

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