Numerous state legislators have stood behind organizations that refuse to provide birth control to their employees despite the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. They have supported individuals such as Kim Davis in Kentucky who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses due to her strong religious belief. If you were to ask most state leaders, they would claim to be strong proponents of “religious liberty.” They may even campaign on this idea. However, a bill passed by the state Senate casts doubt on whether they truly believe in religious liberty when it is not politically beneficial.
SC Senate passes state registry of refugees
S.997 initially prohibited any state funding for refugees and put all refugees on a public registry, eerily similar to a sex offender’s registry. The funding provision was eliminated and the registry was made private, but it still would hold any charitable organization that helps with the resettlement of refugees liable for their actions. Though the whole bill is draconian, the idea about making these charitable organizations liable also strikes at the very ideals of religious liberty that the supporters of this bill claim to support.
The two groups in South Carolina that work with refugee resettlement, World Relief and Lutheran Services, are both religious organizations. This legislation could force them to stop their ministerial work and deny them the ability to carry out their Christian duty of caring for the stranger and refugee. What these organizations are doing in South Carolina is not only legal but encouraged by the federal government. The state has no right to infringe on these religious ministries, as refugee settlement is a federal issue.
This legislation shows that unfortunately the fight over “religious liberty” has often been little more than a partisan talking point, not a true conviction. South Carolina’s legislators seem to have little problem with curbing religious freedom and going against Christian principles if that suits their xenophobia or political gain.
Ironically, one of the greatest threats to religious freedom may be originating within our own state by those who claim to support it the most.