Officials of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the civil rights group is going to tweak and relaunch the #Out4Freedom campaign to oppose bills that are designed to restrict religious freedom and more often than not are used as licenses to discriminate. #Out4Freedom has so far been used to garner support for marriage equality across the United States but now the ACLU plans on using the same campaign to spread awareness about the discriminatory nature of the so-called religious freedom bills that are being introduced in various states.
James Esseks, director for the ACLU’s LGBT project, said it is not mere coincidence that legislatures in several red states are intending to introduce variations of the religious freedom bill that was passed by the Arizona legislature earlier this year until a nationwide outcry compelled Governor Jan Brewer to veto the move. Anti-gay rights groups, which include religious conservatives as well as haters, have long succeeded in either stopping or hindering advances made by gay rights activists, but Esseks explained the quick progress on same-sex marriage has enabled them to move on from Plan A to Plan B.
Esseks said, “Plan A is now in ruins as LGBT rights have advanced significantly in recent years, ranging from the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ to the legalization of gay marriage for about 60% of America. But Plan B is just as chilling, and not just to the LGBT community. … Plan B is using ‘religious freedom’ as an excuse to discriminate against anyone you don't like,” he said, meaning LGBT and other minority groups. “They don't want LGBT rights to affect them.”
If the proposed religious freedom bills are put into effect, employers could sack employees they do not like, irrespective of their sexuality, homeowners could refuse any guest housing or public accommodation and people could justify domestic violence by saying their religion allows them to act that way. Esseks believes religious freedom of this sort would be expansive and affect most laws that exist today, bringing about several faith-based challenges to deal with.
Of the ten attempts to pass religious freedom bills through the past one year, only Mississippi has managed to enshrine discrimination in the United States. Esseks referred to the law Mississippi passed as a watered down version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law by former president Bill Clinton in 1993. According to Esseks, the #Out4Freedom campaign is likely to be promoted in states where religious freedom bills are being debated upon so that people at the grassroots level can condemn the respective states’ efforts to enshrine discrimination in their constitutions.