Written by Don Byrd

The relationship between religious freedom and nondiscrimination laws that protect civil rights has been a growing source of controversy in recent years. As the BJC’s Holly Hollman wrote in December, “[p]rotecting religious liberty often involves treating religion in special ways.” At the same time, she noted, “[i]t is difficult… to justify accommodations for the exercise of a religious belief that would negatively impact someone else.” 

A bill now being considered in the Massachusetts legislature, would do away with cases-by-case analysis of some religious accommodation claims brought by corporations and clarify that corporate powers in the commonwealth do not include the right to claim a religious or moral exemption from federal or state nondiscriminatlon laws. House Bill 767 was introduced a year ago and received favorable action in the Judiciary Committee.

Associated Press reports on the views of advocates on each side of the measure:

“LGBTQ people across the commonwealth value the cornerstone of freedom of religion. It’s a core belief we all share,” Mason Dunn, Executive Director of Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition said in a statement. “However, when faith and religion are used to hurt and discriminate, that freedom becomes a weapon against our community — and that’s not something we can allow here in Massachusetts.”

Catholic Action League of Massachusetts Executive Director C.J. Doyle opposes the measure and said the goal of the bill isn’t to prevent discrimination, but instead has “everything to do with coercing the consciences of Christians and enforcing homosexual ideology on the rest of society.”

According to the report, the measure currently has twelve sponsors in the legislature. Stay tuned.