In Tallahassee last month, I testified against the Pastor Protection Act. Two weeks later came another attempt at legalized discrimination, HB 401, a religious-exemption bill that goes far beyond anything considered before.
Like the Pastor Protection Act, if HB 401 becomes law, religious-based discrimination will spread like ripples in a pond to other agencies and organizations. HB 401 would allow hospitals, adoption agencies and businesses serving the public to discriminate against anyone for any reason. Sadly, well-intentioned faith-based communities are being used as conduits for sweeping social-policy shifts.
Miami Beach Community Church is an open and affirming church in the United Church of Christ. I serve as senior pastor. We do not support religious-based discrimination in any form. Our congregation cherishes religious freedom, but we must speak to the injustice of discrimination, regardless of the institution or setting.
These bills don’t enhance or promote freedom of religion; they are instead designed to divide and to create fear. Sadly, human fear and intolerance, not divine guidance, drive this legislation.
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The rhetoric heard in the Florida House Subcommittee on Civil Justice regarding the Pastor Protection Act was insulting, meanspirited, and decidedly un-Christian. I spoke against the act. I defend freedom of religion, but I couldn’t support legislated discrimination.
Florida’s Pastor Protection Act is deeply flawed, and the Right to Discriminate bill is extreme even for the extremists. Bills like these are politically motivated. They inflame faith leaders and pander to a political agenda of privilege and self-righteousness.
Discrimination shouldn’t be upheld as a faithful expression of God’s love. It leaves scars on the human heart, and these bills will create more scars.
The Rev. Harold Thompson, Miami Beach