Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on Tuesday issued an executive order which prohibits state government from taking any discriminatory action against any “individual clergy or religious leader” or any “religious organization” that chooses not to participate in a marriage that is inconsistent with its sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman. His order affirms what U.S. Constitution, Kansas Constitution, and Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act states.
“We have a duty to govern and to govern in accordance with the Constitution as it has been determined by the Supreme Court decision. We also recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected,” Brownback said in a released statement.
“The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right. Today’s Executive Order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs,” Brownback added. “While we disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
His executive order is not as far-reaching as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who ordered his state’s government employees not to infringe on the religious conscience rights of citizens of his state. So Jindal’s executive order would protect photographers, bakers, florists, etc. from sanctions should they decline participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Brownback’s executive order appears to just protect churches and other religious organizations, but the Kansas Constitution, in its bill of rights, explicitly protects “rights of conscience” which applies to all Kansans.
So far there is no action from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to protect religious conscience. Dick and Betty Odgaard, Mennonites who owned Gortz Haus in Grimes, were asked to host a same-sex marriage ceremony at Gortz Haus. They declined. A civil rights complaint was filed with the state, and they later felt compelled to settle, had to pay $5000, and decided they would stop hosting wedding altogether. Recently they announced that they had to go out of business.
Executive action from Branstad can prevent instances like this from happening in the future. Unlike Kansas, Iowa has offered same-sex marriage licenses since 2009 after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
One conservative organizations praised Brownback’s action, calling it a first step to protecting religious freedom.
“Governor Brownback’s Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom executive order is of utmost importance for our nation. The Supreme Court’s reckless disregard for religious liberty in the Obergefell decision has painted a target on the backs of all Americans who reasonably believe in marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Until this senseless decision is overturned, we must do everything in our power to preserve the freedoms on which this nation was built — none more important than religious freedom. Gov. Brownback’s courageous stance for liberty is a great first step that all freedom-loving governors around the nation should follow, Peggy Nance, the CEO/President of Concerned Women for America said in a released statement.