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In Friday’s Rochester Post Bulletin, ace political reporter Heather Carlson wrote in Should you be able to ‘pick and choose’ customers? :
Byron Republican Rep. Duane Quam is planning to push a bill next session that would enable wedding photographers, florists and bakers to refuse service to a same-sex couple without facing criminal or civil penalties.
Quam has drafted a 56-word religious freedom bill aimed at making sure no individual or business can be forced to violate their religious beliefs.
“The principle should be government shouldn’t be making you do stuff you don’t want to do,” he said.
The legislation is broad, stating simply that “no person, organization or entity shall incur a civil or criminal penalty for refusing to provide a service, or refusing to allow the use of property or facilities for any activity that is prohibited by or is against the person’s, organization’s or entity’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Quam said the legislation would protect people of all religious faiths from violating their beliefs. All too often, he said, individuals are seeking out religious individuals who own businesses and forcing them to go against their beliefs.
“Why should a person, a group choose to make someone do something they don’t want to do? You’ve got probably dozens of options but you don’t choose ones that the people don’t have a problem with it. Instead you choose to rub somebody’s face in something for a point,” Quam said.
Critics of the legislation say it would open the door to legalizing discrimination in Minnesota.
“If you start saying in places of public accommodation, for example, they can pick and choose who they want to serve, then we’re back to discrimination against black people, discrimination against Muslims, discrimination against all kinds of people, and I don’t think that’s the kind of state that we want to live in,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester.
We’re with Liebling on this one, and feel that Minnesota’s Human Rights Statutes should not be trifled with.
Moreover, in his rush to enable those homophobic bakers (as our friend Javier Morillo-Alicea asked in May, When did gay-hating bakers become a thing?), Quam doesn’t seem to have thought this through or searched recent Minnesota equal accommodation history.
The Post Bulletin’s narrow focus on gay wedding cakes misses a chance to look at a fairly example n Minnesota of people refusing others service because of a sincerely held religious belief.
In 2007, Reuters reported in Minnesota’s Muslim cab drivers face crackdown:
Muslim cab drivers at Minnesota’s biggest airport will face new penalties including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled Monday.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission, responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the new penalties beginning in May.
A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they feel the faith’s ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone carrying it.
Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying they are unclean.
The taxi drivers challenged the policy in court, but lost their case in 2008.
Islam’s prohibition against consumption would allow Muslim cabbies’ “sincerely held religious beliefs” to refuse transporting travelers carrying alcohol. In 2007, the Washington Post reported:
Last year  the airports commission received a fatwa, or religious edict, from the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society. The fatwa said “Islamic jurisprudence” prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, “because it involves cooperating in sin according to Islam.”
At the time, one local religious authority also backed up the notion that dogs are “unclean,” though in the Huffington Post article Islam On Dogs: Can You Be A Good Muslim And Still Have A Dog?, Omar Sacirbey noted:
Yet many Muslims all over the world have dogs, and dogs figure prominently is some Islamic countries, such as Turkey, famous for its Kangal and Akbash breeds.
“This has always been a touchy issue for me, trying to balance my needs for a guide dog and the concerns within the Muslim community,” said Mazen Basrawi, a blind Muslim-American lawyer in Washington D.C., who has had two seeing eye-dogs since he was 18.
Islamic scripture and tradition does not provide a definitive guide to all matters canine.
But Quam wants to be “sure no individual or business can be forced to violate their religious beliefs,” if some folks sincerely believe that dogs are dirty, the service dog and human companion would be out of luck.
Bluestem thinks that those gay-hating bakers can just deal with marriage equality, as some Muslim cab drivers have had to deal with alcohol and dogs. That’s blunt language, but the protections for human rights are consistent–as are the exemptions for houses of worship and religious organizations.
This isn’t the first time Quam has gotten tangled in “freedom” legislation. In 2013, Andy Birkey reported in the Column article, Minnesota Republicans offer Student Religious Liberties Act:
Minnesota House Republicans offered a bill (HF1771) this week that would allow public school students to wear religious themed clothing, lead prayer before, during and after school, organize religious groups, and allow students to use any public forum at extracurricular events such as graduation to preach religious messaging. The bill is identical to one that became law in Mississippi earlier this year. . . .
The bill also requires schools to set up a “limited public forum” at school events such as sports events and graduation ceremonies for students to conduct religious activities.
Despite the insinuation made by the bill, students currently have a constitutional right to pray in school.
This spring, Quam re-introduced the bill, although only Becker Republican Jim Newberger was a co-author. There was no Senate companion bill.
Quam is also the chief author of HF1547, the Orwellian-named Student Physical Privacy Act. It’s a mirror bill to Tim Miller’s HF 1546.
And then there were his place-baiting tax cuts, covered by City Pages’ Susan Du in Rep. Duane Quam’s Cuts Could Close Parks and Libraries in Twin Cities.
We’ll be praying that none of this malarky passes in 2016.
Photo: Representative Duane Quam, R-Byron.