Religious leaders are making their voices heard in state houses around the country. In Colorado, 130 religious leaders and clergy in support a Senate bill that would permit same-sex civil unions and in Tennessee, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders oppose a bill that would make following Shariah law a crime.
Religion Clause reports on the Colorado hearings next week:
With the first hearings set for Monday in the Colorado Senate on Senate Bill 172 that would permit same-sex civil unions, a group of 130 clergy have announced their support for the bill. A KWGN News report yesterday quotes Rabbi Joe Black, one of three leaders from different faiths representing the bill's supporters, who said:You're going to be hearing opposition to this bill from faith communities. And we just wanted you to know that that's not the only voice that is out there.... For too long the loudest voice from the religious community in regard to GLBT community has been that of condemenation and denunciation -- and that needs to change.
United Methodist Rev. Kerry Greenhill echoed those sentiments, saying: "God loves all people equally as children of God. It is not a sin to be GLBT." The bill, while permitting civil unions, provides that no member of the clergy is required to certify a civil union in violation of their free exercise of religion and no child placement agency is required to place a child for adoption with a couple that has entered a civil union.
The Tennessean reportson the proposed bill that would require the state attorney general to determine if the religious practice of an individual Muslim is terroristic or peaceful.
Local Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders gathered near the Tennessee Capitol on Tuesday to ask that an anti-Shariah law be withdrawn from consideration by the state legislature.
If passed, they fear, the law would make it illegal to be Muslim in Tennessee, although the bill's supporters say it specifically targets groups that support terrorism.
"All of a sudden, I pray using the Koran or the Sunnas of the Prophet, and it's a crime," said Imam Yusuf Abdullah of Masjid Al-Islam in Nashville. "What kind of bill is that?"
But Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said Muslims have nothing to fear from the bill he introduced in the state Senate because it targets terrorism, not religion.
"There are different arms of Shariah, and the arm in my bill has nothing to do with their religious practices," he told the Daily News Journal. "I am a strong constitutionalist, and I believe in the right to worship."
The bill exempts the peaceful practice of Islam. But it also claims that Shariah law requires its followers to support overthrowing the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions and governments.
"The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities constitutes a conspiracy to further the legal, political and military doctrine and system which embraces the law of jihad," the law reads.
That raises concerns, said Jim Blumstein, a constitutional law scholar at Vanderbilt University. Laws can ban crimes, he said. But banning religious beliefs or practices is another matter.
"A law that is focused on anti-social conduct should be taken seriously and examined," he said. "A law that equates religious exercise with anti-social conduct is very problematic."