Massachusetts Bill Would Ban Companies From Citing Religious Exemption

The bill under consideration was inspired in part by the 2014 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby.

If the legislation succeeds, corporations will be unable to claim religious exemption to skirt anti-discrimination laws.

A debate about religious freedom and discrimination is taking place in Massachusetts, where state lawmakers are looking to prevent corporations from using religious exemptions to circumvent the state's anti-discrimination laws.

The bill states that “the powers of a business corporation do not include assertion — based on the purported religious belief or moral conviction on the part of the corporation, its officers, or directors — of exemptions from, or claims or defenses against, federal or state law prohibiting discrimination.”

Those supporting the measure say while religious liberty is important, ensuring it does not provide license to discriminate is equally as important.

“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.”

The bill's detractors, on the other hand, believe it amounts to "legal thuggery":

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.”

“The same people who pleaded for tolerance and an end to discrimination when gay rights laws were being considered, now demand that Christians be punished, and if necessary, driven out of business if they refuse to service same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremonies,” Doyle wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

“If this legal thuggery succeeds, conscientious religious believers will be effectively excluded — which is to say, discriminated against, in entire professions — such as those of printers, photographers, bakers, florists, wedding planners, along with jobs and businesses in the hospitality industry,” he added.