Meeting Public Comments

Subcommittee meeting and times are as follows:
A bill for an act prohibiting the burdening of a person’s free exercise of religion.
Subcommittee members: Wheeler-CH, Meyer, B., Salmon
Date: Thursday, January 27, 2022
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:00 PM
Location: RM 304
Names and comments are public records. Remaining information is considered a confidential record.
Comments Submitted:

Sandy Wilson [Citizen Engagement]
Citizen Engagement is declared AGAINST HSB 593 and instead urges the Iowa legislature to enforce the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Iowa in ALL circumstances!
Brett Parker [American Atheists]
Please see the attached testimony in opposition to HSB 593.
Carl Olsen []
Marijuana is currently in FDA approved clinical trials, but of course it's also in Schedule I.At the federal level, religious use of controlled substances (plants classified as hallucinogens) is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (which is similar to HSB 593): See Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Unio do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006)Religious use of marijuana is protected by national law in Jamaica, The Dangerous Drugs Act (Jamaica) as Amended by 2015 Act No. 5, Part IIIA: Religious use of marijuana by Rastafari.
Carl Olsen [Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church]
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invoked both state and federal religious freedom acts, Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) was about the religious use of a Schedule I substance, peyote, which is also a plant classified as a hallucinogen. Congress Amended the civil rights statutes in 1994 to protect the religious use of peyote, 42 U.S.C. 1996a.
Laura Hessburg [Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence]
The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) urges you to reject HSB 593, a proposal to amend implement a broad religious exemption to Iowa civil rights law. We represent 22 crime victim service provider agencies across Iowa and the collective experience of agency staff who dedicate their lives to supporting victims of violent crime, specifically, survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Our direct service providers routinely witness the pain and suffering of crime victims, as well as their stunning resilience in surviving repeated violent acts (often over the course of months and years), inflicted on their minds and bodies by people they know and care about. We strongly support religious freedom, one of our nations fundamental values protected by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We also support American values of equity and fairness as well as laws enacted to protect against discrimination and ensure fair treatment for all. Domestic violence is not a singleissue problem and harm inflicted does not occur in a vacuum. It remains a persistent public health problem with crisis levels of prevalence. Inequity is a root cause. Discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, criminal background, etc., impact how individuals experience violence and how systems and people respond and meet survivors needs. If we want to end and prevent violence, we must prioritize policies to advance equity and prevent discrimination. We oppose this bill because we believe it is unnecessary and will become a vehicle for enabling discrimination and for harming or restricting the freedom of others. Iowas civil rights laws strike the right balance. They provide extensive protection for religious freedom and also stand out for providing comprehensive protection against discrimination that explicitly includes LGBTQ residents. This proposal implements a broad religious exemption that conflicts with our laws by allowing people to claim their religious beliefs give them the right to decide which laws they will follow. In other words, this proposal would make it easier to discriminate by allowing entities and people to ignore laws that protect health, safety, and essential civil rights. It would create legal chaos and the negative impact extends well beyond Iowans antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ residents. This bill is bad for everyone but it significantly harms Iowans who disproportionately experience discrimination. Relationship violence does not discriminate it occurs regardless of gender, race, economic, immigration or education status but young women, LGBTQ women, and women in communities of color experience the highest prevalence. Domestic violence involves coercive and controlling behavior. An abusive partner seizes every opportunity to use inequality as a weapon to control another person. Race, immigration status, income, gender identity, sexual orientation all are used as weapons in a domestic violence situation and routinely prevent victims from seeking help and create significant barriers to safety. Religious exemptions undermine safety for victims of violence by making it easier for those doing harm to engage in coercive behavior. Consider an abusive partner who challenges his arrest for domestic abuse assault because his religious tenets say that a man has the right to discipline his wife. Quite frankly not too long ago this was not a religious belief but a societal norm. Or consider victims, including same sex couples or women of color or immigrant survivors, who never call for help because it risks putting their families in more danger than the harm they endured due to biases and discrimination in our legal systems. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children. Iowa enacted housing protections in 2016 to prevent victims from being routinely evicted because of the abuse. This proposal would enable landlords to ignore the law by claiming a religious exemption to justify the eviction of samesex couples, practicing Muslims, etc. It would undermine decades of fair housing laws more broadly by making it legal to not even rent to someone in the first place.Iowa doesnt need this. American history is replete with examples of religion being used to justify discrimination and violence based on race, gender, sexual orientation. Iowa is a national leader in enacting laws that proactively address discrimination and strike the right balance between protecting rights and accommodating freedoms. Please reject this proposal. It creates barriers to safety for crime victims and could lead to an array of harms to safety, health, and the rule of law in addition to enabling discrimination that is in direct conflict with Iowa civil rights laws. Iowa Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceComments for House Judiciary Subcommittee, January 27, 2022Laura Hessburg,; 5154905241
Pete McRoberts [ACLU of Iowa]
The ACLU of Iowa will always protect and defend the core American value of our freedom of religion. Governments will frequently make decisions that either target religious expression, or that unfairly prevent people from exercising their rights. So, we agree with the motives of the authors of this bill and encourage all government officials to remember that they are obligated under the Constitution to protect peoples rights. For these reason, we are regrettably unable to support this bill. While the intent is sound, if enacted, this would certainly create a system by which Judges will be required to perform a religious test of people seeking protection under these provisions. This is different than a test of a persons sincerity in a claim courts do that all the time, and there are established processes in place to do so. This language is a departure from that and would instead mandate a factual interview and determination about religious practices, legitimacy, and other similar facts. I believe this gives too much power to Judges to make substantive decisions about peoples religious views. This is clearly not the intent of the bill, but it is T he outcome required by the language in it.For these reasons, we instead recommend no changes to Iowa law. The Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Iowa and US Constitutions provide a clear and distinct framework with clear guiderails for Judges when Iowans religious expression is potentially harmed due to government action. We encourage anyone with such a claim to use these robust protections when needed. That is how we ensure that local and state governments continue their obligations to free expression of religion, that we can all agree are critical to our people and our country.