Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hawaii Family Forum: Religious Freedom takes a Beating in Legislature

From Hawaii Free Press

2011 Legislative Report

From Hawaii Family Forum May 27, 2011

Hawaii Family Forum, within the limits prescribed by the IRS, continued its efforts to educate the community on the various issues of concern to the families of Hawaii. This report is our analysis of the session.

Religious Freedom Takes a Beating

First and foremost, we noticed a very strong change in the legislature this year towards religious entities. Comments directed at Hawaii Family Forum, and other religious organizations, were negative. Pro‐family supporters walked away from several hearings disheartened at the way legislators allowed, and in some cases perpetuated, back‐ended derogatory comments about religious institutions. We have never before seen this type of discrimination at the capitol.

While we believe that everyone has a right to their opinion, regardless of whether or not we agree with them, we were not afforded the same acceptance. In fact, one resolution on gender equality (HCR 141 sponsored by the Women’s Caucus) went after the Catholic Church by stating that women should be ordained a priest. Although non‐binding, a resolution makes a statement. Whether or not you agree with the sentiment of the resolution, religious organizations should be allowed to govern themselves without interference from the government.

In the future, we will be strengthening our efforts in the community to educate churches on the misinformation being spread about the separation of church and state.

Physician‐Assisted Suicide

Physician‐assisted suicide (SB 803) came up right away this session but dissipated just as quick. Senator Josh Green allowed the community, which showed up in full force, to participate in the legislative process. This time, we were pleased that the Senate Health Committee listened to the overwhelming voice of the community. Physician‐assisted suicide will only weaken the trust that we have in our doctors. The medical community agreed and came out in force to oppose the effort. We sincerely thank Senator Green for his continued opposition to this effort.

Hawaii Family Forum has helped defeat attempts to legalize physician‐assisted death since 2001!

Emergency Contraceptives

To our dismay, the legislature came very close to passing a law (SB 218) that would force all hospitals, including Hawaii Medical Center (a hospital on land owned by the Catholic Church) to administer the abortificiant morning after pill. This was another bill sponsored and strongly supported by the Women’s Caucus. This issue comes up almost every year. We have been on record, since the first attempt to pass this bill, opposing any attempt by the government to dictate the practices of a private hospital. Once a precedent is set, other attempts will follow.

Gambling

This legislature allowed several gambling bills to move this session. Certain legislators also used a desperate and dishonest process to legalize gambling in Hawaii (SB 755 SD2 HD1 and SB 1247). We remain opposed to gambling because it is an addictive lifestyle that could lead to bankruptcy, crime, domestic violence, divorce, and exploitation of the vulnerable – the young, the old and those susceptible to addictive behaviors. Further, gambling entices those who are financially disadvantaged, ultimately worsening the plight of our poorest citizens. Although Hawaii is only one of two States without any form of legalized gambling (Utah is the other), we will continue to oppose the effort as we have since 1999.

Traditional Marriage / Civil Unions

This issue, as always, received the most media attention. The memory of thousands of people in the community standing against the effort to pass same‐sex civil unions faded quickly this year. The legislature, and even people in the media, made comments that the community didn’t care about the issue any more based on the low voter turnout in 2010.

We continue to believe that the legalization of civil unions is just a dishonest attempt to force same‐sex marriage on the people of Hawaii. Public testimony from the ACLU stated that they will be back for full marriage equality. In fact, after Governor Abercrombie signed the bill (SB 232) into law (Act 001), some of the people interviewed stated that they were happy with the “step” in the right direction.

Protection of Religious “Public” Accommodations

A bill (HB 1244) to protect religious institutions or organizations in their refusal to provide services related to the solemnization of same‐sex relationships where the religious institution or organization finds the solemnization to be in violation of its religious beliefs or faith, without becoming subject to civil liability, died in the Senate Judiciary. Citing problems with the language, the legislature asked that we “try again next year.”

Human Trafficking

We were pleased that the legislature took up the issue of human trafficking this session. We supported several bills that strengthen the law pertaining to human trafficking in Hawaii. HB 1003, amends certain criminal offenses to include conduct committed against domestic violence victims covered by protective orders or restraining orders. This bill is currently awaiting signature by the Governor.

Foster Care & Adoption Services

As we have for several years, we supported efforts to help young adults, who age of the foster care system with continuing education and housing options. As we stated in our public testimony (HB 718), these young adults live in temporary foster homes, waking up every day knowing that one day they will age out of the system and be left without benefits, including healthcare and housing. These children are usually older and have special needs and challenging behaviors because of the trauma they have been through in their short lives.

Because of this, we agree that increasing support for those who are older than 21 is vital. The bill did not make it this session, but we will continue to support the effort. We strongly support finding forever families for children in these situations.

Statute of Limitations (Sexual abuse of a minor)

SB 217 eliminates the statute of limitations for civil actions brought by persons subjected to sexual offenses as a minor. Although we did not weigh in on the early versions of the bill, we felt compelled to do so when the legislature tried to exempt the state from the language. As the largest childcare provider in the state, we asked the legislature not to exclude them. We strongly believe that children should always be protected from sexual abuse and no one should be exempted. The bill is currently pending signature by the governor.

Gender Identity & Expression

A bill (HB 546) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “gender identity or expression” as a public policy matter with regard to employment handily passed the legislature. The bill defines gender identity as (p. 1, lines 8‐14) "a person’s actual or perceived gender, as well as a person’s gender identity, gender‐related self‐image, gender‐related appearance, or gender‐related expression, regardless of whether that gender identity, gender‐related self‐image, gender‐related appearance, or gender‐related expression is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s sex at birth."

We object to this new inclusion because Christian and other organizations with an opposing view ought to have freedom to act on their beliefs, without facing stigma or punishment. It was signed into law by the Governor on May 2, 2011 (Act 034).

Final Observations

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

The Christian community remains committed to the Gospel of Jesus and the freedom to express our opinion in the marketplace. Our founding Fathers encouraged religious expression in the public arena and misguided individuals who try to reinterpret the separation of church and state to mean something it doesn't won’t stop us from doing what we believe is right and just.

We thank those in the community who stood firm with us on the issues this session and remain committed to strengthening the nuclear families of Hawaii.

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For more information on Hawaii Family Forum, visit us on the web at: Hawaii Family Forum.

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