Religious Freedom Again Treated with Contempt by South Dakota ‘Republicans’

banned BIbleThe South Dakota Legislature recently had another chance to consider protecting the religious freedom of South Dakotans from homosexual activists and others who seek to force their will on others. HB 122o was submitted to protect the free exercise of religion in South Dakota-something under heavy attack nationwide and which may soon be under full attack here in South Dakota.

Last year, the “Republican” supermajority legislature killed two bills to protect religious freedom, apparently with the blessing of South Dakota’s “Republican” governor who went on to join other RINOs in smearing the sponsor of one of the bills as a “racist.”

Prime sponsor Rep. Scott Craig began speaking in favor of his bill by recounting the long and rich Christian heritage of America, as well as the legal protections for religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the  U.S. Constitution.

Craig also pointed out that HB 1220 was designed to mirror more recent federal protections of religious liberty, namely the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was backed by Democrats in congress and signed into law by a Democrat president, as well as being supported by the ACLU and successfully utilized in court to protect religious liberty.

Craig also pointed out that, like the federal constitution, the South Dakota Constitution protects religious liberty at the state level: “The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed.”  Unfortunately, the Left’s war on religious liberty has made it necessary to erect additional bulwarks to make clear freedoms already protected by constitutions, as evidenced by the federal RFRA.

The bill was supported by testimony from Bruce Hausknecht, a judicial analyst from Focus on the Family via telephone,  Jennifer B. Utter of Family Heritage Alliance Action, Dale Bartscher, Family Heritage Alliance Action, Linda Schauer, Concerned Women For America Legislative Action Committee, and Travis Benson, Catholic Diocese Of Sioux Falls.

Opposing testimony was given by Denny Kaemingk, Department of Corrections,  Pat Pardy, Department of Corrections and Jim Shekleton, Board of Regents.

Kaemingk claimed he was not against religious freedom, but said this was a “bad bill for South Dakota.”  Kaemingk and Pardy concentrated on silly nuisance claims filed by prisoners such as “jelly donuts for Hanukkah”…which apparently are already happening in the absence of a state RFRA.  The fact that the state seems to be interested in entertaining obvious nuisance lawsuits from convicted criminals should not hinder the protection of the religious freedom of decent, sincere South Dakotans. This is what our morally-adrift culture has come to: allowing the evil actions of evil people to serve as a vehicle for evil people to make evil attacks on the liberties of decent people.

Shekleton of the Board of Regents claimed this bill is a “deceptive bill” that doesn’t have legitimate support, but is rather a “parade” of groups to promote “their ideas.” Shekleton said the statement Craig made about our nation’s Christian heritage and our history of protection of religious freedom was only “half the story.”  Shekleton concentrated on the perception that government should be devoid of the Christian values that founded our nation and government. He claimed some people in schools might claim they couldn’t take final exams because they have to go to a religious event in the Carribbean, or that they might demand to have marijuana in their college dorm room because of their “religious beliefs.” I am left curious if there have ever been any cases where the federal RFRA has been leveraged to push such claims…or whether this is just more pure, 100% unadulterated BS designed to use as a vehicle to continue to leave religious freedom exposed to the attacks of the Left. It was pretty clear by the end of Shekleton’s testimony that he did not have a favorable opinion of religion, especially the kind of vibrant Christianity that led to the birth of this nation.

Libby Skarin of the ACLU South Dakota said that while the ACLU originally supported the federal RFRA, “much has changed since then.” (Yes, this nation’s moral fiber has gone much further down the toilet, and the Left’s war against Christianity has come completely out of the closet).  Skarin said that since the federal RFRA was passed, some people had used RFRA to “discriminate” against people based on their “marital status.” (Imagine that: Christian hotel/apartment owners who might not want to rent their property to a man and woman who are shacking up and not married, or to two homosexuals who are sodomizing each other.  Why in the world shouldn’t Christians be forced to allow people behaving in open contradiction to their religious values to behave that way on property that they own?).

This legislation was also opposed by Equality South Dakota, a pro-homosexual group, but they chose not to testify openly against the bill because they knew, as they stated on their website, “if EqSD would testify, this would bring attention that this is a LGBT related bill and thereby hinder the possibility of killing it.”  The homosexual movement has learned that if it can get “useful idiots” in more mainstream organizations to do its dirty work for it, the odds of success for their agenda are much better than if people actually realize the investment of the homosexual agenda in the issue.

With governments are trampling religious freedom across the country in recent years, it certainly seems that the supposed religious liberty is of convicted criminals is more important than the religious liberty of decent, law-abiding God fearing people. Criminals already have the government jumping through hoops to protect alleged religious freedom, while Christians have their liberty trampled, and “Republicans” unwilling to take further measures to protect authentic religious liberty.

As you can see from the vote, once again our “Republican” supermajority legislature behaves as if it were a Democrat supermajority legislature, and kills on a 10-3 vote a bill to protect religious freedom even as religious freedom is under withering attack nationwide.

While Rep. Mike Stevens (“Republican” - Yankton) made the motion to kill the bill and Rep. Mark Mickelson (“Republican” - Sioux Falls) seconded the motion to kill, to his credit, Rep. Mike Verchio of Hill City spoke in favor of rejecting the motion to kill. Rep. Jim Bolin, Rep. Verchio and Rep. Don Haggar deserve our thanks for resisting the motion to kill this religious freedom bill.

With “Republicans” like this, the Left has no need of out-of-the-closet Democrats to accomplish their agenda.

Bartling Yea Bolin Nay Haggar (Don) Nay
Hawley Yea Langer Yea Mickelson Yea
Munsterman Yea Solum Yea Stevens Yea
Verchio Nay Wink Yea Westra Yea
Gosch Yea


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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