FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Kentucky Spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw regarding House Bill 43, new law to give religious organizations legal immunity:
The ACLU of Kentucky is disappointed Governor Beshear signed House Bill 43 into law. House Bill 43 is very poorly drafted legislation veiled as religious liberty protections. 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, HB43 could create broad criminal and civil legal immunity for religious groups. HB43 will effectively prohibit the government from enforcing any law against religious organizations during a state of emergency as long those groups 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 outline the existing and robust protections Kentuckians already have. Upon final passage out of the Kentucky General Assembly, we wrote to Governor Beshear urging him to veto this legislation.
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 passed yet another solution in search of a non-existent problem – one that may have dangerous consequences.