Senate Quashes Christensen’s Religious Liberties Bill

It’s always unfortunate when bills that are supposed to bring people together end up pushing them apart – like HB322, a religious freedoms measure.

Thursday night the Senate decided not to take a vote on the bill.

And the reaction was unpleasant, to say the least.

So many angry texts, phone calls, and emails started coming in from the “religious” advocates that senators were told to be careful if they went into the Capitol hallways and a few senators started turning off their cell phones.

“I’m getting some really nasty messages,” said one Democratic senator.

HB322 is Rep. LaVar Christensen’s religious freedom bill that he’s worked on and off for several years. It is explained in this UtahPolicy story that ranThursday morning.

The irony is that early session LDS Church leaders called a rare press conference to 1) endorse a statewide law giving anti-discrimination protections in housing and employment to gays and lesbians and 2) plead for further legal guarantees, and understanding of, religious liberties and the expressions thereof.

In short, LDS Church leaders were calling for compassion and understanding on religious freedom expressions and speech.

Christensen took up that cause. And he crafted what he thought was a reasonable religious freedom statute, although there are those in the Legislature that didn’t want to take up his bill.

House GOP leaders promised Christensen a vote – even though they were past the time when House bills were being considered in that body.

HB322 passed the House, 54-21Wednesday night and was sent to the Senate for consideration Thursday.

But there were concerns in the Senate, especially that it came over the last day of the session – Thursday.

Around 5 p.m. last night the Senate in a voice vote decided to send the bill from the floor calendar back to Senate Rules.

And that started the “nasty” messages coming in, as some conservative groups wanted at least a vote on the measure in the Senate.

So, in an effort to have guarantees, and more understand, on religious freedom, some very unreligious-like language was floating around the CapitolThursday night.