Kansas Legislature to overhaul KPERS

By Nikki Wentling

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Kansans oppose proposed “Preservation of Religious Freedom” act

By Nikki Wentling

The Kansas House will debate bill 2260, the “Preservation of Religious Freedom” act. The measure says that the government cannot burden someone by compelling him or her to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs. Members of the Kansas Equality Coalition said the bill is a ploy to nullify the Lawrence ordinance that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Last week, a Kansas legislative committee passed house bill 2260, the “Preservation of Religious Freedoms” act, which  prevents the government from compelling anyone to do something against his or her religious beliefs. Advocates of the bill have used a recent dispute about the U.S. government requiring religious institutions to include contraceptives in their employees’ health care plans to gain support for the act.

Although the bill has been in process since Sept. 2009 and was not created in response to this national controversy, Representatives Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson) and Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) have used the contraceptive conflict as an example of what the act could prevent. However, critics say this bill will allow people to use religion as a defense to discriminate and will strip Kansans of their basic rights.

“The whole thing is convincing people into believing that this is something that promotes religious freedom, when it is something that takes away human dignity and civil rights,” said Stephanie Mott, Director of the Kansas Equality Coalition.

If this bill were to be implemented, individuals could discriminate against others in employment, access to public accommodations and in housing unless specifically prohibited in the Kansas Act Against Discrimination. This act prevents discrimination pertaining to race, religion, color, sex, disability and ancestry. However, it does not prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — something Lawrence has chosen to protect. Members of the KEC say this bill directly attacks the Lawrence ordinance.

“Lawrence is the only place within Kansas that actually has protections for the LGTB community and that this bill is targeting specifically Lawrence,” said Scott Criqui, Vice Chair of the KEC of Lawrence.

The Kansas Catholic Conference supports the bill, as do Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. In his testimony, Colyer said it was needed because President Barack Obama was “attacking religious rights“. However, some think the bill is not representative of what Kansans believe. Sandra Vu, a Catholic student from Wichita, says she thinks no one should be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s like telling them that you can’t hire them because they’re black or something,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think being gay would really affect a person and their job.”

The bill has been delayed by the House, and will be debated at an unknown date.

Organizations voice concerns about Kansas abortion bill

By Nikki Wentling

Pro-choice and Pro-life organizations unite in their disapproval of house bill 2598, which would impose new restrictions on abortion in Kansas. The bill is sponsored by the House Committee on Federal and State affairs, and would allow physicians to withhold information from patients in order to prevent them from seeking abortions. To hear reactions on this bill, click the link below.

Listen to the story

Transcript:

Nikki Wentling: This is Capital Connections; I’m Nikki Wentling

Both pro-life and pro-choice organizations spoke out against a bill this week that would allow physicians to withhold information from their patients in order to prevent them from seeking abortions.

The Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs is sponsoring the bill, which also prevents women from having an abortion based on gender of the fetus. The committee closed the hearing on the bill Wednesday, but it will reopen at a later date.

Organizations like Planned Parenthood and Kansas NOW are against the bill, and pro-life institutions have also expressed their disapproval. Sarah Campbell, director of Lawrence’s Christian-based Pregnancy Care Center, says the proposed restrictions would take away a women’s right to make an informed decision.

Sarah Campbell, Pregnancy Care Center Director: Our job is to empower women with all of the information we that we can possibly give them to make a right decision.

Nikki Wentling: This is one of three bills currently in the house that would restrict abortion in the state of Kansas. According to politicalfiber.com, the Kansas legislature considered 13 anti-abortion bills in 2011 and passed five of them. The reproductive justice coordinator for the commission on the status of women Amanda Schulze thinks legislators sponsor these bills to wear down pro-choice lobbyists.

Amanda Schulze, Reproductive Justice Coordinator: The way that anti-abortion activists work is they have a lot more money and resources than we do so they will try and push a lot of bills that are kind of silly.

Nikki Wentling: Campbell thinks the issue of abortion has always been important in the state of Kansas. She says the issue has become more pronounced since the election of Governor Sam Brownback in 2010.

Sarah Campbell: Sibelius that left, you know she was very passionate on the other side of the issue and so I think it just fired up the base of the opposition and when that shift happened in 2010 it was really a priority for the people that got in there.

Nikki Wentling: Shulze encourages students to discuss the issue of abortion. She says the bill should be discussed amongst those whom it will affect, and not be in the hands of male politicians.

Amanda Schulze: It’s not affecting a 50-year-old congressman. It’s affecting us girls, in college, at a reproductive age.

Nikki Wentling: Vice President for the commission on the status of women Haley Miller thinks the proposed bill is a scare tactic, and immoral.

Haley Miller, Vice President of the Commission on the Status of Women: It’s when you start telling lies to women who want this procedure that’s when it becomes an issue.

Nikki Wentling: This is Nikki Wentling reporting for Capital Connections, nwentling.wordpress.com.