State Roundup: Injustice at Home and Next Door

In the first month of 2020, state legislators across the country proposed a host of laws aimed to infringe on the separation of church and state and further religiously based discrimination. Last week, you may have read our article about proposed state laws regarding abortion, but there are many other humanist issues that legislative votes may impact. All of these laws have been proposed by conservative Republicans working to protect their religious beliefs at the cost of the civil liberties of their constituents.

“In God We Trust”

In Kansas (the state where the Kansas City Chiefs don’t play, regardless of what Donald Trump may think), legislators have proposed a law that would require posting “In God We Trust” in all public buildings—including each classroom in each public school as well as colleges and in libraries. A “durable poster” or framed picture of the motto with the American and Kansas flags would have to be posted as soon as a school, city, or county receives a donation of money for posters or the posters themselves. Any individual or organization could donate the posters, even—as one legislator warned—the Ku Klux Klan. Arkansas legislators this year proposed a similar law, as did Pennsylvania and Missouri (where the Chiefs do play). In Indiana, the law was proposed but the Education Committee amended it to merely allow schools the option of hanging the posters, rather than making it a requirement. Eight states have laws requiring posting of the motto in some or all public buildings.

Adoption and Foster Care

In late January, Tennessee became the ninth state to allow adoption and foster care agencies that receive government funds to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, even (or especially) if that means prohibiting LGBTQ or unmarried people or people from religious minorities from becoming adoptive or foster parents. The West Virginia legislature will soon vote on allowing agency rules that have the same effect as the law in Tennessee. West Virginia, according to the Beckley Register-Herald, is the “state with the highest per capita rate of children in state custody.”

Anti-Transgender Laws

Tennessee also has several laws in the pipeline that discriminate against transgender students: one would bar them from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities, and another would prevent them from accessing the appropriate bathrooms in schools. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Washington are all considering similar bills regarding the participation of transgender students in sports. Kentucky has a school bathroom bill pending. In South Dakota, one proposed bill would make it a felony for doctors to provide some health care—including non-invasive care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy—to transgender youth. In some cases, penalties could be up to ten years in prison. Similar bills with more rigid penalties are pending in Florida and Colorado. In other states, like Illinois, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, doctors could lose their medical licenses for providing care to transgender minors. Missouri legislators are considering a bill that also imposes penalties on doctors as well as the parents of transgender children if they seek medical care, while New Hampshire is considering adding “sexual reassignment” to the state’s definition of child abuse.

Unfortunately, this list is far from exhaustive and new bills—or amendments to bills under consideration—are proposed frequently. Keep an eye on your state legislature and contact your representatives to let them know your stance on such bills in your state.