State House advances religious freedom act

The state House has advanced the Kansas Religious Freedom Act, which says that the government cannot “substantially burden” an individual’s practice of religion without a compelling interest to do so.

The vote Wednesday was 89-27. The act now goes to the Senate.

“Absent of a compelling state interest, we are not going to use government power to force you to act against your religious beliefs,” said bill author Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe.

The bill defines government burden as anything that curtails, prevents, or inhibits a person’s religious practices or basic tenets. The bill allows citizens to sue local and state government entities that either violate or could possibly violate their religious freedom.

Some expressed concerns that such language would make any government body with a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation subject to litigation.

“What we are now saying is that you have the right to discriminate against someone if you say it is against your religious beliefs,” said Rep. Paul Davis D-Lawrence. “I don’t believe it is ever right to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.”