House Bills 326 and 372 were losses this year

House Bill 326 protected student privacy and House Bill 372 addressed religious liberty but both met the same fate – they were lost in the tumult of the pension and budget battles . . . but both could have and should have passed because they represent part of the heart of what it means to be American.

With 46 signed co-sponsors and at least six others who pledged to vote for it, there was surprise when House Bill 372 – The Pastors, Churches and Religious Schools Protection Act – was gutted in committee and rendered useless for the purpose that its sponsor, Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Russellville), had intended. Petrie had wanted to protect pastors, churches, religious schools and religious organizations from having to change their beliefs, their teachings and their practices when it comes to marriage and sexuality because of the aftereffects of the 2015 Obergefell same-sex marriage decision.

The turn-around in committee happened only because an openly gay law professor from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law had unusual influence over one legislator, who in turn swayed the committee with the result that the bill was stripped of its intent. From there it simply died. Why make the effort to pass it?

HB 372 was designed as a shield to protect religious organizations, not a sword to hurt anyone or deny anyone else their rights.

Clearly, churches and religious schools regularly teach their understanding of the Bible on any number of doctrinal issues, and they attempt to live up to those teachings. It would be nothing but “crazy” for the state to allow them to continue to teach their understandings of Scripture, but then mandate that they violate those teachings by threatening them with punishment. That would make them exactly what their Scriptures define as a “hypocrite” – preaching and teaching one thing, but doing the opposite.

The bottom line is that HB 372 would have reinforced the rights of churches, religious schools and religious organizations by giving them protection from state officials or outside groups who talk about diversity, but who actually practice intolerance and want to use the state to force their will on others.

House Bill 326 – The Students’ Right to Privacy Act – was never heard in committee. It secured 26 co-sponsors but never gained enough traction to be considered. It is important to note that the average bill in the General Assembly has about 3 to 10 co-sponsors. With 26, there was still enough fear of the LGBT community that legislators chose not to push it.

The purpose of HB 326 was simply to affirm that privacy rights of ALL students would be protected and accommodated as much as possible by school officials. Though children claim to have the right to choose their gender these days, there isn’t anyone protecting the privacy rights of students who do not want someone of the other biological sex in their bathroom, locker room or shower room with them. Privacy rights are actually more Constitutional than “gender rights.”

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