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NASHVILLE – This week the Tennessee General Assembly will consider two bills that would allow the use of religion to discriminate, under the guise of protecting religious freedom.
On Tuesday, February 26, the House Senate Education Subcommittee will take up SB 0802 (Beavers)/HB 0534 (Pody), which would allow religious student organizations at state universities to discriminate against people who do not “[profess] the faith of the group and [comport] themselves in conformity with it” by prohibiting them from joining or serving in leadership positions.
On Wednesday, February 27, the Senate Education Committee will discuss SB 0514 (Hensley)/HB 1185 (DeBerry, J.), which would force public higher education institutions to permit students studying counseling, psychology, or social work to use religion to discriminate against clients. The legislation would allow these students to refuse to provide services to people whose “goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with their personal religious beliefs.
The ACLU of Tennessee has long stood for the protection of individuals’ religious freedom. However, ACLU-TN opposes both of these bills because they mandate the use of religion in publicly-funded institutions to discriminate.
The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:
These bills are about discrimination, plain and simple. Legislation that would require publicly-funded institutions to recognize student groups that exclude potential members based on religion or to allow students studying counseling to refuse services based on religion uses religion to discriminate. Religious freedom in America means that every person has the right to his or her own personal, religious beliefs, and ACLU has long defended that right. But religious freedom is not a free pass that people can use whenever they want to discriminate against others.
Information about the ACLU of Tennessee is available at: www.aclu-tn.org.