As a new religious freedom law in Michigan takes effect, religious groups have taken aim at what they call “the most egregious violation” of religious freedom in the nation.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who signed the legislation into law in January, announced the legislation, which will now allow the Michigan Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development (DCEED) to license religious organizations to perform or conduct religious activities.
“We believe that the right to practice one’s faith is enshrined in the First Amendment and we believe it is not in conflict with the federal government’s commitment to equal rights under the law,” Snyder said.
“This law provides a framework for freedom of religion and of worship and for the freedom to hold a faith-based institution.”
The legislation also allows the state to license churches to be used as educational facilities.
It allows for religious organizations and their leaders to conduct private events, and allows for the sale of religious materials.
Religious organizations in Michigan are prohibited from engaging in public school activities.
Michigan is one of just a few states that have yet to enact a religious freedom bill.
A similar law was signed in Texas last year.
The new law, however, will not take effect until February 2019.
The state’s attorney general is urging Snyder to reconsider the law.
“The governor should not sign this legislation without first taking into account the concerns of religious leaders and their members and religious freedom is not an issue that has been in dispute in Michigan,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
“Michigan’s religious liberty laws protect religious freedom by requiring a religious entity to adhere to a non-discrimination policy and protecting people from discrimination by their employer, public accommodations, landlords, employers and other entities.”
Snyder, who has previously voiced support for the controversial legislation, is facing criticism from religious groups who say the legislation could put Michigan’s religious freedoms in jeopardy.
In February, Michigan’s governor signed an amendment to the state’s constitution that would make it the first state in the country to allow discrimination against gay people and others based on their sexual orientation.
“I support a religious liberty that protects religious organizations from being sued for the actions of their employees and from being compelled to take actions that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs,” Snyder told reporters at the time.
“That’s a very important issue and I’m glad that we’ve got the opportunity to have it.
I’m not a big fan of discrimination.
I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again: We should be able to do things that are good for the state of Michigan.”
“We have to look at what it means for people to have the freedom and freedom of expression, which I think has been a big theme throughout this process,” said Mike Segal, executive director of the Michigan Human Rights Commission, a non profit advocacy group.
“There’s been a lot of pushback, not just from the LGBT community, but also from other civil rights groups and people who don’t agree with the state, like my faith, who are going to say, ‘It’s OK if you want to discriminate, but it’s not OK if we want to be able live as openly and as freely as possible.'”
In a statement, Snyder said, “This new law is a step in the right direction, but I hope it will not lead to a sweeping new state-level religious exemption law.”