State Capitol News
1:47 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Senate Votes to Protect Religious Beliefs

The Senate voted Tuesday to provide new religious freedom protections for those licensed by the state.  

The proposal says the state cannot revoke licenses of those who refuse to act based on a -- quote -- sincerely held religious belief. Senator Steve Yarbrough said anyone who doubts that freedom of religion is under attack need only look at the headlines.

"Who would have anticipated that the very power of the federal government to attack the free exercise of religion, the very right of the people to answer to their conscience, would dominate the front pages and be a huge issue in the presidential election?" Yarbrough asked.

The Obama administration wants employers to include birth control in health insurance. While churches are exempt, church-owned operations like hospitals have to comply. A modified plan to have insurers pick up the tab has proven no more acceptable to foes. But Senator David Lujan said his concern is closer to home in the polygamous community of Colorado City where he said police ignore incidents of underage girls being forced to wed to much older men, domestic violence and welfare fraud.

"Law enforcement would probably say up there that it's their sincerely held religious beliefs in following the followings of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church up there as to why they look the other way in certain instances,"said Lujan.

But Yarbrough said his bill provides no protection for sexual abuse or criminal conduct.