Clearing Up the ACLU’s Distortions about Rep. Lesko’s House Bill 2625

By Catherine Glenn Foster, Alliance Defense Fund

Once again, the enemies of religious liberty have to resort to distortions as they try to convince citizens to jump on their anti-faith bandwagon.

Headlines from the American Civil Liberties Union and its cohorts are flying viral across the Internet with catchy little phrases like, “Use Birth Control? You’re Fired!” Sadly, even the mainstream media has begun to join in this echo chamber of falsehoods.

Where did the enemies of freedom at the ACLU come up with this whopper? At issue is Arizona legislation sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, House Bill 2625. Lesko, a woman, is the one leading this bill, which protects the religious freedom of both women and men. And that’s all the bill does: restore religious freedom to several statutes passed in 2002.

The 2002 government mandates attack the religious freedom of all Arizona citizens by forcing all employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs and other objectionable items related to contraception — even if they must violate their religious beliefs.

HB 2625 fixes that by declaring that any entity or individual with a religious objection to paying for such coverage is free to contract with an employer and insurer who want to honor their conscience. In fact, other religious freedom statutes in Arizona already make the anti-religious mandates unlawful, and HB 2625 simply fixes those statutes to make them comport with existing law.

This is why the ACLU must engage in distortions to get people to oppose HB 2625. The people of Arizona love freedom, and HB 2625 simply restores one of the most cherished freedoms, religious liberty, to its rightful place outside of government coercion.

So how can the ACLU claim that HB 2625 would let McDonald’s fire its employees for using contraception? They’re just following the old maxim that if you say something enough times, people might start to believe it.

The facts, however, are these: Nowhere does HB 2625 create language letting anyone discriminate for any reason. On the contrary, the law puts a stop to government discrimination and restores a zone of freedom that was improperly taken away in 2002.

And the facts are even worse for the ACLU: The existing insurance mandate, which HB 2625 amends, nowhere declares that an employer like McDonald’s cannot fire people for using contraception right now. So, the ACLU’s claim that HB 2625 is somehow removing an existing protection is impossible. It cannot remove a protection that isn’t already there.

Moreover, despite the fact that the laws amended by HB 2625 nowhere talk about firing people for the mere use of contraceptives and do not stop an employer from doing so, there are no examples of any employer in Arizona ever doing such a thing. The ACLU just made it up as yet another fear tactic.

But, some have asked, what of the mandate’s clause targeting religious employers that would be removed by HB 2625? Yes, it would be removed — and for good reason. Any clause that singles out religious employers in this way almost certainly violates both the Arizona Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 9-0 decision in Hosanna-Tabor vs. EEOC. State legislators aren’t targeting anybody; they are removing a clause that did. If the ACLU wants to fault legislators for making state law consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, it is on shaky ground.

Arizona already has other laws that govern employment non-discrimination, and HB 2625 does not amend any of them. HB 2625 only amends language that specifically attacks religious groups so that the statutes will now let religious citizens have their freedom again.

The ACLU may believe its own press releases, but you don’t have to.

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