PORTLAND — Concerned over a growing trend where business owners of faith are being forced to compromise their individual conscience rights or face harassment, persecution or penalties, the Oregon Family Council last month introduced a state initiative effort to protect religious freedom.
To be placed on the November 2014 statewide ballot, the initiative would need the valid signatures of 87,213 registered Oregon voters by July.
“We are deeply concerned that even Oregon elected officials are becoming hostile towards religious freedom,” said Teresa Harke, council communications director and spokesperson for the initiative’s filers, Friends of Religious Freedom. “In comments related to a business owner that declined to participate in arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony because of conscientious objections, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said, ‘The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.’ It is very troubling that Oregon elected officials believe people of faith or with conscientious objections need to be ‘rehabilitated.’”
The initiative sponsors note that religious freedom is the first freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. They say it is a fundamental right to express, think and act upon deeply held beliefs.
But they note recent incidents in four states — and causing headlines nationally — where business owners face severe challenges and even the possibility of losing their business for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. These have included penalties and lawsuits against a florist in Richland, Wash., bakers in Gresham and also Colorado, and photographers in New Mexico.
For more information, go to oregonfamilycouncil.org.