Religion, in very different forms, came to the Utah Legislature on Tuesday.
Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, introduced SB204, the Religious Freedom Act.
Meanwhile, GOP legislative leaders heard Tuesday morning that the state must pay a $338,050 attorney bill for losing a lawsuit over the placement of large, white crosses next to roads where Utah Highway Patrol troopers were killed in the line of duty.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he thought it was excessive to pay the main attorney on the case – Brian Barnard – who has often sued governments over libertarian or liberal causes – so much money.
“We only had to pay $50 in a fine, but all that money in attorney fees,” said Jenkins. The Legislature will appropriate the money into the Attorney General’s budget and it will be dispersed from there.
Among other things, plaintiffs argued that placing large white crosses – a symbol of Christianity – on public property next to roads to honor the dead lawmen was a violation of the separation of church and state.
Reid says in view of recent federal movements it is important that Utah have a law that clearly says the right to religious freedom “is the primary, the principle, right” in the U.S. and state constitutions and should never be abridged.
SB204 does not yet have any written text, so there is no point in hyper-linking to it.
Reid says he’s not running the bill in reaction to the Obama administration’s recent decision to require some religious health care insurance plans/organizations to provide contraception coverage.
“It should be clear that when, or if, there are any conflicts between religious freedom and other interests, that religious freedoms are protected in (state) law,” said Reid, a faithful member of the LDS Church who once worked for the largest faith in Utah.
“Religion should be protected beyond any other” right, he said.