How is a Legislator Supposed to Vote When a Bill Isn’t Perfect?

Some Florida Senators and Representatives voted no on bills banning fracking because the bills didn’t ban all fracking. Environmentalists felt the omission was intentional and encouraged legislators to vote no on any bill that didn’t ban ALL fracking. SB 314 is the good law. Whereas SB 7064 fails to include a ban on matrix acidizing that threatens Florida’s sources of potable water.

I listened to a committee meeting discussing SB 588 designed to take away home rule regarding the banning of plastic straws. GOP legislators introduced a bill to prevent a county from banning plastic straws and then added wording to the bill about generators at gas stations. Why did they do that? If a legislator didn’t like the preemption bill concerning plastic straws, then would the legislator be forced to also vote no on the part of the bill that would keep gas stations open during a hurricane evacuation?

What is a representative to do IF a bill isn’t perfect?

Senator Gibson’s quote from this article:

I am a champion for all people, all races and all religions. And there’s a lot of misinformation and seemingly deliberate efforts to try to paint me as someone I am not.

Senator Gibson had asked that a bill (mentioned in the article) be more broad in terms. She wondered if singling out one religion might have unintended unwanted consequences to the group being singled out.  I also feel it would be better if Representative Fine used the following wording (instead of the wording in lines 61 to 78 of HB 741 that he used):

Bigoted language includes: calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; denying a well documented atrocity.

The above wording was copied in part from Representative Fine’s bill EXCEPT he made the wording specific to ONE minority religion. I rephrased his wording so that bigoted language was defined more broadly.

I also have other issues with Representative Fine’s bill HB 741. Why doesn’t SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) drafted by Representative Fine apply to ALL schools receiving public monies either directly or indirectly? It only applies to the neighborhood schools and the magnet schools. Why didn’t Representative Fine want the bill to apply to charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money?

Another thing causing me to worry about Representative Fine’s bill (as it was worded when Senator Gibson voted no on the bill) is that adding religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statutes might allow the evangelical dominionists to have more power to use religion as a sword to harm others.

We need the wording of the Do No Harm Act whenever we’re adding religious protection so the law can be used as a shield against discrimination and not a sword to harm others. RFRA taught us that sometimes people use what was meant to be good legislation in a way that harms others. Whenever religious freedom is added to the laws, the following wording should also be added:

This religious freedom law should not be interpreted to authorize someone to cause harm to another.

HB 741 adds religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statute. Here is how the statute (before adding religion) reads now:

1000.05(2)(a)Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. No person in this state shall, on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any public K-20 education program or activity, ….

I am not saying that HB 741 doesn’t have the potential to be a good bill. It merely needs to make the wording broader with the goal of preventing bullying of people based on religion, race,  gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or marital status.

More information about the rise of bullying based on religion, race and gender:

https://www.adl.org/take-action

The current legislature and governor are diverting more and more taxpayer money to charters and private school vouchers. Why aren’t these anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws applying to those schools?

 

Does bigoted language increase feelings of hate? Are feelings of hate growing in our country?

A few quotes from an article (Bigotry and the English Language by TA-NEHISI COATES) that explores the definition of bigotry:

Wes Alwan’s definition of a bigot as someone who is wholly unpersuadable, wholly without conflict, and wholly without doubt, is a description of a myth. … Wes Alwan’s understanding of the word “bigot” is ignorant of the word’s current usage, especially its usage by those most affected by bigotry.

Link to the article:
https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/bigotry-and-the-english-language/281935/

This is a good time to point out that taxpayers are funding charters and private schools that do not need to follow the rules of the neighborhood schools. How horrible will we feel if a charter school or a school receiving voucher money turns out to be some sort of white nationalist propaganda mill? There is no reason SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) shouldn’t apply to any school receiving public money, either directly or indirectly.

SB 1272 and HB 741 lay out the words of antisemitism. As Coates says in that Atlantic article, words trigger feelings of discrimination. Those not within that minority group may NOT understand how hurtful certain words might feel. When bigoted people use certain words they are signaling those other bigoted people within their bigoted group. I think that is the reason that Representative Fine goes into such detail as to what words signal antisemitism in his bill HB 741. Experts in drafting laws and in Jewish history and current affairs should consider that the law would be more effective if it was drafted in broader terms rather than specific terms. For example, instead of specific language, what about substituting lines 61 to 78 of HB 741 with these broader terms as to what constitutes bigoted language:

(a)
1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion, race or gender.
2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion, race or gender.
3. Accusing a group of similar people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single person from that group.
4. Denying the Holocaust. [Perhaps the narrative could be specific as to exactly what happened during the Holocaust.]
5. Accusing a citizen of being more loyal to another country just because another person of similar ethnicity or religion has demonstrated that proclivity.

Link to the bill:
https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0741c2.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0741&Session=2019

Please write your representatives and ask that SB 1272 (HB 741–the companion bill) be amended. Racial, gender or religious bigotry should NOT be tolerated in any school receiving public funds, either directly or indirectly. The language of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) should be included because we want freedom of religion laws to be used as a shield against discrimination and not as a sword to harm others. Require that civility classes be taught. Prevention and education are the keys to reduce bigotry.

Link to information about the Do No Harm Act:
http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/do-no-harm-act

In addition to describing bigoted language, SB 1272 (HB 741-the companion bill) wants to add religion to this statute. Here is how the statute (before adding religion) reads:

1000.05 (2)(a) Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. No person in this state shall, on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any public K-20 education program or activity, ..

SB 1272 goes before the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on April 8th. Jacksonville Florida Senator Audrey Gibson is on that committee. Please write to the Honorable Audrey Gibson about this issue before April 8th. Feel free to use any of the points I used in my email to the Florida Senator:

To: gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov

Honorable Audrey Gibson,

SB 1272 is on the agenda for the Judiciary committee for April 8th at 4 pm. The bill addresses antisemitism and adds religion to Florida statute 1000.05. PLEASE ask for these amendments to be added to the bill before voting yes:

1. SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) should amend 1000.05 of the Florida statutes so that the statute applies to any school receiving local, state or federal financial assistance. Religious, racial or gender bigotry should NOT be tolerated in any school receiving public money, directly or indirectly. How horrible will we feel if a charter school or a school receiving voucher money turns out to be some sort of white nationalist propaganda mill? Now is the time to make sure that 1000.05 covers all schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance.

2. In addition to specifically mentioning antisemitism, please also mention anti-atheism and other minority groups that have felt the brunt of religious bigotry.

3. The bill should include a requirement that civility and sensitivity classes be taught in all schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance. All school children should learn that religious, racial and gender bigotry isn’t polite. The idea is to address hatred, yes?

4. The language of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) should be included. Our First Amendment religious clauses and other religious protection laws should be a shield of protection from discrimination not a sword to do harm to others.

The comments during the House Education and the House Judiciary committee meetings (discussing HB 741) made it clear why we need civility and sensitivity classes in all the schools. People testified in those committee meetings about the discrimination they or their friends have experienced in life.

I am worried that adding religion to the Florida statutes (without safeguards) might cause unintentional consequences (similar to what happened with RFRA). Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as the ACLU supported RFRA decades ago. They did not predict how it would be used to harm others. They are now promoting the Do No Harm Act to fix the problems caused by RFRA. In my view, the wording of the Do No Harm Act should be included wherever religion is given special protection in state or federal laws. Our First Amendment religious clauses and other religious protection laws should be a shield of protection against discrimination not a sword to do harm to others.

Sincerely yours,
Concerned Jacksonville citizen

Do No Harm

do no harm act

You can find your rep at this LINK

You can find what the NAACP is saying about H.R 5272 at this LINK

You can find other statements of support at this LINK

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that protects all Americans, but this freedom does not include the right to restrict or control the behavior of others,” said Nicholas Little, Vice-President and General Counsel for the Center for Inquiry. “At its inception, CFI was one of very few voices cautioning that RFRA would permit religiously motivated discrimination, whether against religious minorities, the non-religious, women, or LGBTQ Americans. Sadly, we were right. But this fix [H.R. 5272] would help ensure that the law could no longer be used as a weapon to impose one person’s religious beliefs on other unwilling parties.”  That quote is from this LINK

Link to the bill

RFRA in Florida

Click here to write your rep about this issue

Summary of HB 401 currently before the Florida legislature:   Groups can be exempt from the laws that others must follow IF they say they have an objection to the law based on a moral conviction.

What if the person’s moral compass has lost direction?   What if the person’s moral conviction is advocating for an act that will harm or deny benefits to OTHERS?

Quote from this Link to what AU is saying about RFRA  : The federal RFRA was meant to be a shield to safeguard religious freedom, not a sword to be used to harm others.  Because people and corporations have been trying to use RFRA in recent years as a way to take away the rights of someone else, however, AU believes RFRA must be fixed.

Link to current Florida RFRA

Link to an article about the bill seeking to expand RFRA in Florida

Link to proposed bill that will expand RFRA in Florida

Why do we want laws on the books that exempt some groups?  Why not fair play?  If the law or rule isn’t worthwhile, why do any of us have to follow it?  Simple example:  If you want to allow hijabs in the work place, then allow everyone to wear a hat or other head garment.  Why not?  What’s the harm?  It is just a hat or scarf.

Quote from Marci Hamilton’s book God vs. The Gavel: At the same time,  Schools must guard against enforcing their dress codes unevenly. If the school is willing to wink at the kid wearing a hat for fun, it cannot then punish the girl who shows up In a hijab.

There should be a different level of scrunity when your behavior harms or deprives others of benefits that most other people receive.  IF you don’t want to fill prescriptions for birth control because you have a moral conviction against birth control then don’t become a pharmacist.    If you don’t want to serve alcohol because of your moral convictions, then don’t apply for a job that includes that as part of the job duties.   If you don’t want to marry people that don’t follow your own moral convictions, then don’t apply for a job that includes issuing marriage licenses as part of the job duties.

I am a feminist.   Equal rights.   BUT I don’t think that should mean that a woman who can’t do heavy lifting should apply for a job that requires heavy lifting then ask for an exemption.   Please don’t misinterpret me.  I know plenty of women can do heavy lifting.   All I am trying to say is that IF your job conflicts with your moral convictions, then get another job.  Am I wrong?  If so, please tell me why.

I understand as a country that we are afraid of others persecuting us for our beliefs.   That feeling makes us passionate about the religious liberty (or freedom of conscious) clause in the First Amendment.   I am passionate about that also.  BUT there is a limit.   You shouldn’t be able to use it to harm others or deny others benefits.

Marci Hamilton in her article states: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) has allowed religious accommodation to harm too many affected by the believers’ conduct.”

If someone else’s religion scares you, then shouldn’t you fight for stronger church/state separation?  Shouldn’t you fight to make sure everyone follows the laws that are designed to protect the people?

Please know WHY RFRA needs to be fixed so that it is not used to harm or deprive others of benefits that most people are free to enjoy.  Read one of Marci Hamilton’s books about the issue.  She gives lots of examples.

Link to New York Times article written by Marci Hamilton

Perhaps because the First Amendment is so vague, we need some form of RFRA BUT it shouldn’t be used to harm people. It should be used for the government to encourage individuals to be more loving and STOP discriminating based on sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Marci gives an example of a child not being allowed to wear the Star of David but other kids being able to wear a cross at school. Rather than treating different religions differently, the school could have taken the opportunity to talk about the First Amendment and the desire of the founders of our country to escape from religious persecution so prevalent at the time our country was founded