Hundreds debate controversial religious freedom bill

Mike Sharp

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Hundreds debate controversial religious freedom bill

By Mike Sharp. CREATED Feb 5, 2014

"I think it's important for us to see these attempts at so-called religious freedom for what they really are, which is an attempt to foster one over another."

When Idaho Episcopal Church Bishop Brian Thom testified against Boise Rep. Lynn Luker's bill regarding religious freedom on Wednesday, he did so as a man of faith himself.

“I have certain beliefs but I have to consider what you believe and what others believe and then we have to work out the common solution,” says Thom. “We cannot give permission for anybody to have the ability to impose a belief on another person."

Thom was joined by hundreds who filled more than three rooms at the statehouse waiting for a chance to weigh in on the issue. While the opposition made up the majority of testimony, they weren't the only ones taking a stand.

"People who are trying to limit religious freedom, which is how religious people live their lives. They live their lives through their faith. People that are trying to limit that action, which is constitutionally protected, are actually the discriminating people," says Cornerstone Family Council executive director Julie Lynde.

Lynde says the debate over the bill was misguided with many testimonies touching on another of Luker's bills which would go further to protect the right for people to refuse service based on religious beliefs.

"It doesn't change the current Restoring Religious Freedom Act that's been on the books for a little over 13 years,” she says. “It does nothing to discriminate."

But Thom says the two bills go hand-in-hand and Wednesday's debate was timely. A discussion he says he'd like to see happen again, located somewhere besides a committee room at the Statehouse.

“Let's keep talking and let's keep it out of the legislative process," he says.

After hours of testimony the committee voted to send the bill to general orders which means it didn't pass but it didn't really fail either. The bill could return for debate once changes are made.