The Chatter: "Religious freedom" bill may have to wait, Bevin appoints judge-executive in Shelby County

12/27/2016 02:29 PM

A “religious freedom” bill is on the horizon for the Kentucky General Assembly, although the issue may not come when lawmakers meet for next year’s 30-day session, WDRB News reported Sunday.

The issue’s primary sponsor in recent years, state Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, didn’t rule out filing legislation again this year that would allow certain business owners to deny services based on their religious beliefs, according to the report.

Similar bills have passed in other states, and Louisville reaped some benefits of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s decision to move its championship games from North Carolina after its “religious freedom” bill became law this year, landing the ACC’s postseason baseball tournament.

Such legislation has support from groups like the Family Foundation of Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention while groups like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville Inc., Jewish Federation of Louisville and Fairness Campaign have lined up in opposition, according to WDRB.

Supporters say the legislation is necessary to ensure the protection of religious beliefs while opponents fear such a law would lead to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

From the report:

Robinson’s bill did not apply to “standard goods and services” or activities in the “ordinary course of business.” Instead, it focused on “customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services.”

But (Fairness Campaign Director Chris) Hartman said that language opens the door for discrimination at businesses beyond those envisioned by the bill’s supporters.

“When I go into Burger King I get my burger made my way,” he said. “… At the end of the day, a good lawyer will be able to make that argument for virtually any trade, for virtually any business to say that this is a customizable or expressive art form.”

For his part, Robinson said his bill simply provides Constitutional protections for people to act according to their conscience.

“It never is read to where they could refuse to sell to a person because of their sexual orientation or their personal beliefs,” he said.

Legislative leaders have said they plan to focus on economic issues in the upcoming session.

New judge-executive appointed in Shelby County

Gov. Matt Bevin has appointed Danny Ison to serve as Shelby County judge-executive effective Jan. 1, replacing Rep.-elect Rob Rothenburger as the county’s top official.

Bevin’s office announced the move in a news release Friday.

Ison, of Simpsonville, is a senior consultant with the public relations firm Guthrie/Mayes, joining the group in 1998. Before that, he spent 28 years with Philip Morris USA in community relations for manufacturing plants in Louisville, Richmond, Va., and Cabarrus County, N.C., according to the release.


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