State Senate Bill 17, introduced by Charles Perry, will remove penalties if licensed professionals, such as counselors or pharmacists, refuse service or care based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Karla Payne, Executive Director of Open Arms Rape Crisis Center and LGBT+ Services, expressed her worry that the legislation could make life more difficult for members of the LGBT+ community.
“Life saving can be a lot of different things,” said Payne. “Someone could go into a counselor’s office and be very troubled and needing to deal with some issues. If someone dismisses them then those issues could fester or get bigger or become so much that that person feels like they can’t deal with them and take their own life. I mean, we see that happening in the LGBT+ community already.”
“The LGBT+ communinity already has a hard time getting certain services and being discriminated against for no other reason just for them being who they are,” Payne said, “and that’s not okay.”
Religious leaders like Tim Davenport-Herbst, pastor at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, feel the legislation goes against Christian values.
“I don’t think Jesus Christ, if he was a physician today, would want to have anyone denying medical treatment,” said Davenport-Herbst.
“If he was a nurse, if he was a nutritionist, if he was a social worker. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which Jesus would say ‘I’m sorry but my sincerely held religious beliefs mean that I cannot serve you.’ “
“You know,” said Karla Payne as she shook her head, “people’s lives are at stake.”
The bill passed the State Senate on April 4th and is now in committee in the State House.
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