Today, the West Virginia House is debating HB 4012, a RFRA bill. As with many other state RFRA bills we seen in the wake of Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court’s marriage quality decision, HB 4012 could allow individuals, and even for-profit corporations, to discriminate, deny women healthcare, and otherwise harm others in the name of religion.
HB 4012 would create a potential religious exception to every single existing and future state and local law in West Virginia, including criminal laws, such as laws against child abuse and domestic violence; laws protecting public health; and nondiscrimination laws, including local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances already in place in cities like Charleston, Huntington, and Morgantown, West Virginia.
In practice, if HB 4012 is enacted:
- a religious employer could try to trump employment discrimination laws, like those found in the West Virginia Human Rights Act, and fire a woman who remarried after a divorce or who was pregnant and unmarried;
- a healthcare worker could try to refuse a woman a doctor-prescribed medication;
- a mental health counselor could be exempted from state required licensing requirements;
- an owner of a sandwich shop could refuse to serve a gay customer; or
- a public hospital employee, whether the doctor, nurse, or the intake coordinator, could refuse to serve patients for procedures such as blood transfusions, in vitro fertilization, and mental health care.
Under this bill, the parameters of one person’s rights would be subject to another individual’s or entity’s personal religious beliefs. That is simply unfair.