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Kansas bills define ‘religious freedom’ and ‘parody marriages’

George Orwell coined the word “doublespeak,” which describes deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous or obscure language, often used for political misdirection. In Orwell’s novel “1984,” the Ministry of Peace is dedicated to war, the Ministry of Truth is dedicated to propaganda, the Ministry of Plenty deals with starvation and the Ministry of Love is dedicated to torture.

Now, Kansas representatives have introduced “The Kansas student and educator freedom of religious speech act,” which is unnecessary at best and confusing at worst. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees Kansas students and teachers religious freedom. It also protects students and parents from having public school employees impose their personal religion on them. Does the former teacher who introduced this really think students aren’t allowed to pray in school? Does Tory Marie Arnberger, an area teacher who cosponsored this bill, see students and teachers being denied their First Amendment rights?

The bill, HB 2288, claims, “Public schools are being threatened by out-of-state special interest groups who demand that schools adopt inaccurate interpretations of the 1st amendment that unlawfully restrict the freedom of students, teachers and other public school district employees to engage in religious expression or otherwise exercise their freedom of religion, leading to a stifling of constitutional rights.” What outside group has done this and where has it happened?

The Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, which supports this bill, has also claimed to be fighting “out-of-state special interest groups” that allegedly want to restrict religious freedom. The Family Policy Alliance website notes, “You may know us by our previous names, CitizenLink and Focus on the Family Action.” Talk about special interest groups.

Kansas lawmakers have also introduced HB 2320, “The Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act,” which contains such enlightened prose as, “the sworn testimonies of ex-gays, medical experts, persecuted Christians and licensed ministers demonstrate that there is no real proof that a gay gene exists.” The bill calls gay marriage a “parody ... that is inseparably linked to the religion of secular humanism.”

HB 2321, “The Optional Elevated Marriage Act,” uses some of the same language by claiming same-sex marriages “erode community standards of decency, unlike secular marriage between a man and a woman, who have reached the age of consent.”

According to NBC news, both HB 2320 and HB 2321 were modeled after templates written by Chris Sevier, “a well-known anti-LGBTQ lawyer and activist with a checkered past.” Talk about outside interests. Sevier sued for the right to marry a laptop in Utah as a way to challenge the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Since then, he has written bills in South Carolina and Wyoming that sought to label all same-sex marriages as “parody marriages” and again asserted gays are members of the religion called Secular Humanism.

Kansas lawmakers should be careful about introducing bad bills suggested by special interest groups. Often, the title of a proposed bill is a sure clue to what it actually does not do.