Statement From Bishop Gary E. Mueller Regarding HB 1228

bishop-letterhead-GEM

March 31, 2015

United Methodists across Arkansas are watching the debate surrounding HB 1228, entitled, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The issue of religious freedom is critically important to me, particularly in the context of our current culture that seems to be growing increasingly anti-religious. However, I am deeply concerned when a state law supporting religious freedom could actually lead to discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation.

This stance is completely consistent with The 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline, the United Methodist Church’s “law book,” that states in ¶162f: Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.  

On February 13, 2015, I sent a letter to Governor Hutchinson, expressing my concern that the bill could have unintended consequences that could lead to the targeting of individuals or groups. In my letter, I expressed my belief that such actions ultimately could lead to undermining of the common good. Therefore, I asked Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill should it arrive on his desk.

In recent days, an almost identical statute became law in Indiana. Subsequently, Governor Pence has taken the lead in assuring the public that he will lead a vigorous effort to include language that makes it explicitly clear that “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” cannot be used to deny individuals their basic civil rights.

I strongly urge Governor Hutchinson to provide similar leadership in the State of Arkansas or veto HB 1228.