WV Religious Freedom Restoration Act could allow for unsavory behavior

West Virginia officials are set to vote on House Bill 4012, or the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

If passed, the bill would allow individuals to be excused from any state or local law if they claim their religious freedoms were affected in same way. For West Virginia, this law would include non-established religions, meaning any religion, including Internet-based faiths, such as Pastafarianism, not just run-of-the-mill Christianity, Judaism or Islam, can be used as an excuse.

In the span of things, people have used RFRA bills to excuse unsavory behavior. A religious leader in New Mexico cited the state’s RFRA law as a defense after being convicted for sexually abusing two teenagers. According to the “Sexual Assault in West Virginia” handbook published by the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, in 2003 one in nine adult women in West Virginia experienced forcible sexual assault at one point in her lifetime. To provide any type of excuse for sexual abuse is appalling.

To make matters more serious, police officers have been cited as using their religious freedom to ignore orders that they claim infringed on their religious rights. It would not be too far out to suggest an officer could use this loophole to defend an action like killing an unarmed, black teenager.

It’s the LGBT community in West Virginia that most people are concerned about. If passed, the West Virginia RFRA law could allow for LGBT to be discriminated against in a manner of different ways, including but not limited to losing jobs/careers due to their sexuality, things like insurance coverage for contraception, being turned away at a pharmacy trying to fill a prescription, or even when trying attending counseling sessions.

It is beyond time for West Virginians to use their hearts. Members of the LGBT community have faced discrimination their entire lives.

It is imperative that citizens let the House know that the RFRA law is not for West Virginia. Appalachians need to show the kind of heart that the rest of the world thinks we all have.