Episcopal bishops spoke out against a controversial Kansas Republican bill proposing to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination on Friday. According to Huffington Post, the two clergy members spoke out against the bill in a joint letter that they sent to all members of the Kansas state legislature.
Republicans in the Kansas House passed House Bill 2453 on Wednesday, which some call a “Turn Away the Gays” bill. Under it, businesses will be able to deny services to LGBT people without repercussions as long as they claimed that the discrimination was based in “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill would also deny same-sex families access to adoption services, counseling and eligibility for the foster system.
The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe and the Right Reverend Michael P. Milliken wrote to lawmakers that the Republicans’ “political agenda is encroaching upon fundamental principles that Christians, and people of all faiths, hold dear: compassion for the poor, safety for all people and equality for everyone.”
Conservatives justify these types of anti-LGBT bills on the grounds of “religious freedom” for people of faith, but the two bishops wrote that this is a ruse for codifying bigotry into law.
“In truth,” they said, “this bill is not about religious freedom but is aimed at creating state-authorized bias and inequality.”
“Our biblically-based faith calls us to live out the command of Jesus Christ to love one another,” they continued. “You cannot love your fellow Kansans and deny them the rights that belong to everyone else.”
They concluded, “We urge the rejection of this bill so that our great state might continue to stand for justice, dignity and equality.”
The bill now moves on to the state Senate, but Senate President Susan Wagle (R) said Friday that the bill will not pass her chamber.
“I believe the intent of the House was to protect religious liberties. We respect that, but the business implications are going to harm the practice of employment in Kansas,” said Wagle.
As a legislator, she said, she could not in good conscience support the measure, which would create a sub-class of citizens in Kansas who do not receive the full benefits and rights as their fellow Kansans.
“Public service needs to remain public service for the entire public,” Wagle said.