Rep. Klingenschmitt takes another religious stand
By Ramsey Scott, The Colorado Statesman, February 10, 2016
It was his last scheduled appearance before the House State Affairs kill committee, and fiery internet preacher Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, was relishing the moment.
Everyone in the room knew his religious freedom bill, HB 1123, was going to be voted down by the committee’s majority Democrats. The committee’s banter around the bill was half serious and half entertaining.
When Klingenschmitt noted that no one had come to testify against the bill from the state’s top gay rights organization, One Colorado — which he argued demonstrated the group likely supported the bill — smiles broke across the faces of everyone on the committee, right and left. Audience members tittered.
But Klingenschmitt grew serious and cautionary in his closing remarks.
He explained that his bill was intended to protect clergy and religiously affiliated groups from being forced to participate in services against their will — mention of gay weddings floated in and out of committee debate — and that voting against his bill amounted to a vote for religious persecution.
“A no vote would mean that you might be against clergy’s freedom to opt out of participating in someone else’s religion, that you might be against the right of conscience. A no vote might mean that you’re for, down the road — maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday — the future persecution and prosecution of clergymen,” he told the committee members.
Chairwoman Su Ryden, D-Aurora, cut off Klingenschmitt before he could continue his thought.
“Let’s not assign motivation to anyone’s vote,” she said.
The hearing drew a large number of witnesses in support of the bill. They argued that, even if current law exempts clergy and religious organizations from performing acts contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs, there was no harm in explicitly writing those protections into statute.
Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said he thought the bill did not go far enough. He said the protections provided to churches and clergy members should be extended to business owners and individuals.
Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, informed attendees that One Colorado had in fact reached out to her to voice its opposition to the bill.
Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, compared some of the language being used in the debate to language from the pre-civl rights era used to justify segregation and to outlaw interracial marriage. “When I was in grade school, it was interracial issues. Today it’s about intersex issues. I think that the First Amendment of the Constitution doesn’t translate to say ‘I have a right to impose my religion on other people,’” he told The Colorado Statesman.
Klingenschmitt told The Statesman he believed Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, sent his bill to the kill committee to protect Democrats in the House from having to take a vote in a presidential election year on a bill that the public supports.
He also said two gay members of the House who he wouldn’t name told him his bill “kinda makes sense,” but that being gay meant they couldn’t vote for “religious freedom.”
“You gotta be kidding me,” Klingenschmitt said, reflecting on the conversation. “There’s a fundamental disconnect now. They’re not just against Gordon, not just against the pastors, they’re against the Constitution.”
Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, stands in his office in front of a window overlooking the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver.--John Tomasic, Colorado Statesman
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