CHARLESTON, W.Va. — About 60 people turned out to speak at a public hearing Thursday morning on a bill that would allow businesses, individuals and others in West Virginia to argue that civil rights laws don’t apply to them based on their religious beliefs. Most speakers were against the bill.
Then, Thursday afternoon, more than 300 people turned out for a rally, hosted by the conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia on the Capitol steps, in support of the legislation (HB 4012).
Many opponents of the bill said that while it purports to protect religion, their own religious and moral values encourage them to support love and acceptance, not discrimination.
Bill supporters said they want to be able to practice their religion in all areas of their lives.
The bill, called the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, establishes a process for determining if state action is violating a person’s religious freedom.
“Every West Virginian should be free to live and work according to their faith, without fear of being punished by the government,” said Delegate John O’Neal, R-Raleigh, lead sponsor of the bill.
Civil rights advocates say the laws could be used to discriminate…