House Bill 300, now being considered in the PA House of Representatives, would give a cause of action to sue religious ministries, schools & churches who hire based on church teachings and their shared mission. What’s worse, the bill makers removed nearly all of the already limited religious liberty protections in the original bill.
Not only was the amendment process used potentially unconstitutional for going against PA House rules, but this new amendment to House Bill 300 (HB300) does not solve the religious liberty crisis for churches and religious schools. All the amendment does is add “least restrictive means” language into the bill, in an attempt to align it with the PA Religious Freedom Protection Act (RFPA).
Here’s the problem: HB300 explicitly changes the definition of employer in the PA Human Relations Act. By prohibiting religious groups (like churches and religious schools) from hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, these institutions can no longer hire those employees that agree with their religious teaching about human sexuality, marriage, and gender. This specifically targets religious employers, treating these hiring decisions as discriminatory.
This new amendment doesn’t even try to fix that fundamental problem, but simply allows a religious group to argue in court that RFPA may apply. But religious freedom laws like RFPA routinely fail at protecting religious liberty from laws like HB300.
The reason this happens is that when the law declares certain hiring decisions to be discrimination, the government has a compelling interest in eradicating that discrimination, so claims by religious groups routinely fail. And simply adding, as the amendment does, that the government must employ the least restrictive means is of little help because the equal application of non-discrimination laws is viewed as the least restrictive means to eradicating what has been declared to be discrimination.
In short, HB300 as amended will not solve the religious liberty problem. In addition, there are still additional problems with the bill, such as forcing men into women’s spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, dorms and sports teams.
For these reasons, please contact your State Representative and urge them to oppose House Bill 300.