Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Religious freedom caucuses set up in Kansas Legislature, eight other states

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Claiming religious freedom is under assault, 120 legislators in nine states, including Kansas, announced on Tuesday the formation of caucuses that they said would be dedicated to protecting religion from government intrusion.

"It's time for us to make a stand," said state Rep. John DeBerry, a Democrat from Tennessee and Church of Christ minister.

He complained that children are being taught in public schools that faith is ignorant and that there are attempts to remove religious symbols, such as crosses, from cemeteries.

Charges have been made that the ACLU has filed a lawsuit to remove military cross-shaped headstones, but the ACLU says it has never litigated such a proposal.

Debbie Lesko, a Republican state legislator from Arizona, said President Barack Obama's policy of requiring insurance carriers serving religious institutions to offer coverage for birth control was an example of government violating the tenets of certain religions.

Caucuses have been formed in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The American Religious Freedom Program is part of the Washington D.C.-based Ethics and Policy Center.

The group said it hoped to form religious freedom caucuses in all 50 states by the end of 2013.

The group said 27 Kansas legislators have signed up; 26 Republicans and one Democrat.

Of the 120 legislators in the nine states, organizers did not have a breakdown of their political and religious affiliation.

According to organizers, here are the Kansas legislators that have joined the caucus: Rep. Tom Arpke; Sen. Steve Abrams; Rep. Benny Boman; Rep. Steve Brunk; Rep. Pete DeGraaf; Rep. Mario Goico; Rep. Amanda Grosserode; Rep. Dennis Hedke; Rep. Jerry Henry; Rep. Kyle Hoffman; Rep. James Howell; Rep. Steve Huebert; Rep. Kasha Kelley; Rep. Lance Kinzer; Sen. Garrett Love; Sen. Julia Lynn; Rep. Peggy Mast; Sen. Ty Masterson; Sen. Ray Merrick; Rep. Virgil Peck; Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook; Rep. Marc Rhoades; Rep. John Rubin; Rep. Ronald W. Ryckman; Rep. Joseph Scapa; Rep. Scott Schwab; Rep Clark Shultz.