LANSING STATE JOURNAL
Lansing, Michigan – December 11, 2006
Human rights proposal on hold
Catholics raise concerns about city legislation
By Tom Lambert
A vote on a proposed Lansing human rights ordinance has been delayed because of concerns by local Catholic leaders, city officials say.
The Lansing City Council had been set to vote on the measure tonight. It now likely will wait at least a week so it can address those concerns, which deal primarily with religious exemptions.
The ordinance would, among other things, prohibit harassment and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity and student status.
(AFA-MI note: The following sentence — in bold — is inaccurate; there is no such exemption in the ordinance.)
It still would be permissible for a religious organization to restrict employment opportunities based on those factors for officers, religious instructors and clergy.
But some Diocese of Lansing leaders want those rights extended to all members of their faith, Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said.
“I respect their request and welcome them sharing their concerns, as I have with all members of the religious community,” said Dunbar, who along with Councilwoman Sandy Allen met privately at separate times with the leaders.
“There are some concerns that we may be able to address in the ordinance. But extending the religious exemption to any individual swallows the intent of the ordinance and is non-negotiable.”
Dunbar, who met privately with leaders from other churches last week, said her fear is people could discriminate and use their religious beliefs as justification.
Mike Murray, the attorney representing the diocese, declined to comment on the leaders’ concerns.
“Nobody is demanding anything,” Murray said. “We are at an early stage of conversation with city officials. We want to provide adequate protection of believers of all faiths.”
Murray described the conversations as friendly.
Allen said she was disturbed that the religious leaders declined to talk publicly at a meeting to which she invited them Friday.
She said she preferred to wait until after the first of the year to vote on the proposed ordinance. If the council decides to vote on it this year, it would have to set up a special meeting on Dec. 18.
“Whenever you do something last minute, it’s going to be criticized,” Allen said.
The proposal is similar to one the City Council passed in 1996. That ordinance, however, was later voted down by residents.
You can read the Lansing State Journal article here.