Your Faith Will Be Criminalized!

Monday evening, August 4, 2014

Dear Team Coleman,

The loss of religious freedom happens only in other places of the nation or regions of the world—right? Sadly, this is not true. Religious freedom and public safety is on the chopping block — in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Before you decide this doesn’t affect you if you don’t live in Fayetteville, please understand this is a DANGEROUS PRECEDENT for every city and town in Arkansas.

An ordinance brought to Fayetteville Mayor Jordan by the offices of Kit Williams, City Attorney, through Blake Pennington, Assistant City Attorney, is touted as anti-discriminatory, fair and safe. But in reality, it strips the rights, freedom and religion of Fayetteville’s citizens.

The Fayetteville City Council will present for a second discussion an ordinance to amend the Fayetteville code by enacting Chapter 119 Civil Rights Administration to protect the civil rights of Fayetteville citizens and visitors and to create the position of civil rights administrator for the City of Fayetteville:

WHEREAS, the City of Fayetteville seeks to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from unfair discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status; and WHEREAS, the City of Fayetteville seeks to promote the public health and welfare of all persons who live or work in the City of Fayetteville and to ensure that all persons within the City have equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations.

If you are a resident of Washington County/City of Fayetteville, I urge you to attend a meeting of the Fayetteville City Council that will be held TUESDAY, August 5, 2014 at 5:30 PM in Room 219 of the City Administration Building located at 113 West Mountain Street, Fayetteville, Arkansas to hear and respond to agenda matter B.2.

For the complete Fayetteville City Council Meeting Agenda:

Here is a brief summary of the legal analysis prepared by Attorney Stephanie Nichols at the request of a client and concerned citizen of Fayetteville:

“This ordinance is extremely dangerous to First Amendment freedoms and is discriminatory against people of faith. It also poses a threat to public safety and privacy rights.”

This ordinance calls for churches that allow non-members access to the sanctuary for ceremonies (wedding services), or Boy Scout troops to meet in its rooms or offers a fellowship hall for private use – to allow access and use by same-sex couples or meetings performed by a contrary religion. This will force churches and religious organizations to subsidize and participate in actions/messages contrary to their belief system. The solution is NOT for churches or other organizations to discontinue outreach because this is exactly the mission for which many opened their doors.

This ordinance would allow anyone of the opposite sex to access bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, etc., as long as they claim to regard themselves as the opposite sex. However, there is no genuineness requirement. Example: A person can be a biological male, look like a man, and be dressed as a man and will be able to assert his right to be in the women’s/girl’s bathroom, as long as he claims he is a woman (at least for today). Women will not be able to ask men who claim to be women to leave their changing areas, restrooms, etc., and sexual predators can use this as a defense to being in areas of the opposite sex, since all it takes is a personal claim that you are really of the opposite gender. This poses a particular threat to the public safety of women and girls.

This ordinance contains an exemption for public educational institutions within the City of Fayetteville but NOT private educational institutions. This is clearly discriminatory.

The ordinance offers minimum protection for religious institutions with regard to the filling of employment positions. They are only protected in regard to the filling of “non-secular” positions. Under this ordinance, the local Catholic diocese can be required to hire as its receptionist and “face” of the diocese a man with a beard wearing a dress. This forces the religious organization to express a message contrary to its beliefs.

The bill contains absolutely no protections for people of faith in their individual business transactions. Example 1: A Christian landlord has a sincerely held religious belief that she should only rent her homes to single people or biblically married couples. This landlord would now be legally required to rent her properties to cohabiting opposite sex or same sex couples in violation of her sincerely held religious beliefs (even though nothing in federal law currently requires her to do this). Example 2: A person of faith who offers her artistic services of singing in wedding ceremonies has a sincerely held religious belief that she should only participate in wedding ceremonies that conform to her own faith values. She would be legally forced to violate her conscience and provide services that violate her beliefs, even if other providers were willing to provide the requested services. Example 3: A Muslim attorney has a sincerely held religious belief that he should not assist Christian churches in their organizational and policy development legal work, believing that this would be furthering a religion in violation of her own. He would be legally forced to do this type of work rather than provide a good referral to another attorney. The City should not be able to compel forced servitude of people of faith in areas that violate their religious beliefs and conscience rights.

This ordinance stands to prove financially costly to the citizens of Fayetteville with additional personnel and legal costs associated with the appointment of a new Civil Rights Administrator and likely lawsuits.

This bill criminalizes expression of religious beliefs. If a complaint is made against you, and the Civil Rights Administrator believes you are not acting in good faith, or you don’t agree with the Civil Rights Administrator’s attempts to modify your behavior, he or she can immediately refer you to the City Prosecutor’s office for criminal prosecution.
You can read the attorney’s entire opinion here.

Team Coleman, these provisions do not promote diversity of opinion or tolerance. Freedom belongs to all, including those with sincerely held religious beliefs. Tell Fayetteville city officials to vote “No” to the proposed Civil Rights Administration Ordinance for Fayetteville.

Curtis Coleman

Tami Greever,
Executive Director