Montana House Refuses To Follow Other Red States Down The “Religious Freedom” Rabbit Hole


After a heated floor debate, the Montana House failed to pass a “religious freedom” bill, deadlocking on a 50-50 vote, effectively defeating House Bill 615 on Friday. H.B. 615, sponsored by Rep. Karl Glimm (R-Kila), would have placed a legislative referendum on the November 2016 ballot that, if approved by voters, would have legalized discrimination, if it was based on a person’s religious beliefs.

Similar to a law that was recently passed in the state of Indiana, H.B. 615 would have allowed for religious-based discrimination, such as allowing business owners to deny services to gay and lesbian customers. It also could have opened up a myriad of other opportunities for bigots to discriminate against people, under the cover of religion. For example, the law could have made it possible for a pharmacist to refuse to provide birth control to a woman, or for a doctor to deny treatment to a HIV patient who happened to be gay.

The vote fell mostly on party lines, with all 41 Democrats voting NAY, compared to 50 Republicans who voted YEA, with 9 Republicans joining the Democrats, in voting against the measure.

The debate on the House Floor was impassioned, with Democrats raising a number of objections to the legislation. Rep. Margie MacDonald (D-Billings) hoisted up a copy of The White Man’s Bible, a White Nationalist religious text, for the racist Church of the Creator (COTC), arguing that the language in the bill would essentially legalize anything done in the name of a religious belief system.

Crow tribal member Carolyn Peace-Lopez (D-Hardin) argued that the law could empower the nine active hate groups in the state, by granting them legal protection to discriminate against American Indians. She remarked:

American Indians are the walking dead because of how they’re treated by people who discriminate. And now we’re going to license it. We’re going to elevate it.

Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula), a gay lawmaker, noted that the law could be used to discriminate against him. Bennett stated:

I am a religious person, I believe in religious freedom, but this isn’t about that. This is about legalized discrimination of our neighbors and our friends and it’s about discrimination against people like me.

Following the debate, the House deadlocked on a 50-50 vote, preventing the measure from moving forward. The Democrats stayed unified in opposition, and with 9 Republicans defecting from GOP orthodoxy, they had the votes to stymie the measure.

By killing this ill-chosen piece of legislation, Montana has avoided traveling down the “religious freedom” rabbit hole that has legalized discrimination in so many other red states across the country. Laws that sanction bigotry, not only violate the rights of individuals, but they also invite the backlash of economic boycotts. Democrats and sensible Republicans need to unite in every state, to defeat measures designed to empower bigots to discriminate against people, based on “religious beliefs”.

Discrimination is no less ugly just because the person doing it says a prayer before or after they discriminate. “Religious freedom” laws that give legal cover for bigotry should be rejected throughout the country. Luckily Montana had just enough Democrats and sane Republicans to stop the law from moving forward. Just barely.

33 Replies to “Montana House Refuses To Follow Other Red States Down The “Religious Freedom” Rabbit Hole”

  1. Dang mean ol’ republican jackals. If I didn’t know better, we’ve got country chock full of republican Obgyn’s. And they’re mostly elected Obgyns.[wink]

  2. This whole ruse is about to blow up in the faces of the bigots and the pressure will be about economic issues. A number of large businesses and other organizations have already signaled their willingness to boycott Indiana.

    There isn’t ANY state that needs less money, and boycotts can throw ice water on any state mandated ideology.

    We’re entering a new paradigm: it used to be red-vs-blue, now we are moving into religious intolerance-vs- secular government.

    Businesses or any organization looking for a competitive edge will soon move away from those states with “religious freedom” laws. The owie in the pocketbook scenario…

    Supposedly, there is to be no religious litmus test in this country. Well, guess again.

  3. While I definitely see the dangers in such legislation, it is a reaction to an equally dangerous trend where people use anti discrimination laws to force religious business owners to violate their conscious. This too is intolerance. Tolerance must be a two way street. If,for example, a gay couple want a photographer who believes that gay marriage is a sin to photograph their wedding, tolerance would dictate that the photographer could say, I don’t want to do that job, and the couple would just take their business elsewhere. No fight needed on either side. The photographer is not preventing the gay couple from having a wedding and the gay couple is not preventing the photographer from being true to his beliefs. Too often the “secularists” demand tolerance from religious people while being completely intolerant of religious people.

  4. Montana makes two states within the past few days where lawmakers have refused to vote to codify bigotry and discrimination against our LBGTQ citizens. I was glad that sane republicans in GA helped democrats stop the move by far right GOP/TPers to pass a “religious freedom” bill here. I’m also glad that some in the media are reporting on these bills and revealing their true purpose—granting some alleged Christians the right to discriminate against others and the right to use their religious beliefs to justify doing it. Contrary to what these alleged Christians say, it’s not LGBTQ and we sane Americans who are attacking them, it’s them attacking us, and if they say otherwise they’re lying. The recent proliferation of these “religious freedom” bills in states where GOP/TPers are in control prove that they’re on the move and they’re hellbent on deciding who is/is not entitled to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

  5. I’m wondering how these states are coordinating in order to vote on the same measures, of the same wording, on the same days? These state houses have been just as disfunctional as D.C. but they vote in unison?

  6. BULL SHIT!! You don’t see any of these businesses refusing to serve divorced people, Jews, atheists, Buddhists, or people who don’t keep kosher. It’s always about gay people.

    An individual may have religious convictions, but a business, being an inanimate legal entity, cannot. It is not a person, NO MATTER WHAT THIS DISINGENUOUS SUPREME COURT SAYS!

  7. “Discrimination is no less ugly just because the person doing it says a prayer before or after they discriminate.”


  8. In reply to Arrrgggg: It is called ALEC. They are coordinating these things to divide and conquer the United States of America. If we stand united, they cannot win. They have found a willing tool in the so called ‘church’ people, who were raised with hatred and bigotry and hell fire and damnation preaching from the Old Testament. And the republican party is made up of such people for the most part. I have yet to hear a republican in my part of the country who does not speak hatred of the President and I believe it is because of his skin color, not his policies.

  9. It’s so simple. Discrimination is NEVER acceptable. Never…ever….everevereverevereverever. Just, no.

  10. Well it is against my religion to pay taxes to fund wars.
    If I am free to say what I want done with my taxes, I would like to help the poor.
    Religious freedom is not just for the bigots, it is for us all.
    Anyway I do not for one minute think these
    business are religious I think they are mean and nasty.

  11. Wayne, Most businesses know how to turn down business without looking discriminatory. A simple “I am sorry, but I am over booked or I have another commitment on that day, etc., etc. This turning down of business is all ready in play for businesses. Its simple you can take on the business if you don’t have the time or the staff to do the service. And, most times businesses do this not as a discriminatory issue, but simple because they do not have enough resources to take on the additional service.

    This law on the other hand allows using religious beliefs as a means to discriminate. Think about this – How would you feel if a business told you they cannot serve you on religious grounds because you are named Wayne? Your that you have blue eyes, your hair is too blonde, etc? That is discrimination based on things you have no control over.

  12. Exactly, and the Republicans have found willing dupes in the religious right ever since the days of Falwell and his so-called “Moral Majority” (which was neither), without whose help Reagan might never have been elected. Falwell and his “Moral Majority” are both gone, but the religious crazies are clearly alive and well.

  13. It’s ironic that they keep using the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’
    to pass these discrimatory and draconian laws. Don’t they have other more serious problems in the State to concentrate on? Do they think their gawd will thank them for sowing intolerance and hate against their fellow humans?

  14. “Religion” is a “choice”—Race is not.
    Being a “bigot” is holding the “race of an individual AGAINST THEM”.
    The “Jews” are a perfect example of how this subject has become so confounding and confusing.
    Unlike those of us who are Native American (a very distinctive DNA—-that IS A RACE) THE “Jews” do not possess a distinctive DNA AND CANNOT BE CLASSIFIED AS A ‘RACE’—YET; those who disagree with the “Jewish doctrine” of being the “chosen ones”—-are called “racists”—while the “Jews”——hold everyone else who ARE members of difference races—-as “Goya” or “not the chosen ones”.

    [Snipped as a “Disaster of War” — ]

    They deserve everything they are getting.

  15. I want to say congratulation to mjirr for using the word “alleged Christian” in describing these people. For they, are NOT any form of being a true Christian.
    Thank you sincerely!!

  16. In truth Peter, the “moral majority” MAY BE GONE but the religious crazies have thrived or maybe they have just been given the right to grow and speak out?
    Which means, that every, every American who able to vote in the next election had better vote or our nation will be gone in a mini second.
    ALL THESE PEOPLE NEED IS TO HOLD THE SENATE, AND HOUSE, GAIN THE WHITE HOUSE. Then people the (Kochs and others) will have what is needed to do what they want.

  17. There are certain areas where simply stating a religious objection is insufficient. While the state may grant religious exemptions for a native group to smoke ceremonial peyote, they will never grant a religious group the right to cook meth and smoke it (nor should they).

    If you are part of a religion that believes in human sacrifice (yes its an absurd example, but it will make a point) the state will still not allow you to kill people and burn them as offerings to your God.

    By the same token a religion should not give a person the right to discriminate against someone because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, in the public sphere.

    They can still choose to, and they do, discriminate within their churches (i,e–a church can refuse to ordain a woman a priest or minister, and naturally a church can require that its board members be of a specific faith {a Catholic church for example need not hire a Jewish, Muslim or Mormon bishop or even church secretary}).

  18. hmm….look at all of them passing discrimination laws! Is something going to be done with these states?
    There are 21 states that have adopted a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

    Alabama (state constitution amendment)[3][4]
    New Mexico[17]
    Rhode Island[20]
    South Carolina[21]

  19. If you are a business person, you take advantage of every single piece of infrastructure MY taxes have helped build. You DO NOT have the right to discriminate against me if you have an open sign on your door. Me and millions of others have made it possible for you to have a business in the first place and you can leave your “religious convictions” at home if you want to stay in business.

  20. How long before we start seeing just about any crime being nullified because of “Religious Freedom”?

    A few Muslims like to marry underage girls…

    Genital Mutilation…

    Rape seems to be rather common in no few religious countries

    Untouchables treated terribly due to Hindu belief.

    And so on.

  21. Apropos to EJBuckey

    Queer was a denigrating term, but the LGBTQ community took it, owned it, and transformed it into a compliment.

    A lesson in power that many need to learn.

  22. Some people would say the Q is for Questioning, as in people who are questioning their sexuality but haven’t arrived at an answer. I think for straight people that one is probably easier to verbalize for the exact reason you asked that question. We did indeed reclaim the word Queer, and it’s a great catchall for all people who are different – even for straight people who are allies of the community. I know a trans-woman who is into women, so she views herself as lesbian, although she’s still physically male. That’s a situation where Q comes in handy…

  23. What does religious beliefs have to do with commerce. Since the SCOTUS upheld Citzen United, Republicans have seized the opportunity promote the ideology that corporations are people. What we are looking at here is a very destructive plan to undermine the will of the people. Foolhardy Rethugs.

  24. A photographer who is under a contract to a specific religious organization and photographs only members in good standing/communion could do that. It is settled law that if you are offering ordinary commercial goods/services to the public, then you cannot withhold them from certain buyers based on your own biases. Commerce Clause, q.v.

  25. Now that Montana’s long time legislation keeping big money out of their elections has been dumped by the Supremes, look to Montana being bought out by Koch+ALEC in the next couple of elections.

  26. Living in a red state where it’s popular to wear bigotry and prejudice under the hypocritical guise of religious sincerity, I’ve come to believe discriminatory laws are not motivated through what they call “religious freedom.”
    Laws like Indiana recently embraced are passed by the strongest of politicians who are driven by personal KKK-style hatred of anyone they conceive as “different”. The rest are drawn into following along without conviction simply because of peer pressure.
    What I’ve been unable to discern is which of these so-called legislators are the most despicable.

  27. I wonder if any of the Democrats would think to bring a Q’uran and hold it aloft to illustrate just what a law allowing total religious freedom would entail… Be funny to see the Repub’s squirm when they feel they’d have to allow Sharia Law in the name of Religious Freedom. Be fun to watch the conflict between their desire for bigotry and their fear of others’…

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