Go online for a definition of “law” and you will find, “the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.”
It doesn’t state these rules are somehow mere suggestions, or they can be followed on a pick-and-choose basis, like some sort of statutory buffet.
But one of our state legislators, state Rep. Gordon Denlinger, a Republican from Lancaster County, introduced a proposal last month that would, amazingly, allow business owners to deny goods and services to anyone who offends their “sincerely held beliefs” and ignore anti-discrimination laws.
According to the Lancaster Online website, Denlinger’s amendment to the state Constitution would exempt private business owners from “anti-discrimination laws pertaining to employment, housing or service based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, education or disability.”
In other words, it would take the state and nation’s civil rights laws and chuck them right out the window.
Exactly how the sincerity of these beliefs would be measured has yet to be determined – perhaps law enforcement will have to start investing in sincerity detectors to go alongside their lie detectors – but Denlinger believes that “each individual must be free to believe whatever they want without fear of government harassment.”
Lest you think this is a single piece of crackpot legislation that will evaporate like the snows in spring, the House of Representatives in Kansas approved a similar measure last week, though it now appears likely to falter, or at least be heavily amended, in the state’s Senate. Like the voter ID laws that are ostensibly meant to combat fraud, but whose real purpose is to make it harder for certain types of people to vote, the purpose of these proposals is clear – they would give a free pass to discrimination against gays and lesbians, just as homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular are acquiring widespread social acceptance.
Of course, we’re guessing the sponsors of bills like these wouldn’t have such tender concern for “sincerely held beliefs” if, say, a pacifist refused to sell someone a gun in a department store.
This is one instance where we can only hope our do-nothing Legislature lives up to that billing and sits on its hands.