Now is the time to sit up and pay attention, Kansans. What kind of state do we want?
Planned Parenthood Great Plains began offering patients the option of telemedicine consultation with a physician after a Kansas judge blocked a ban on use of telehealth services for medication abortions. That step also followed the landslide rejection of a Kansas constitutional amendment jeopardizing abortion rights in the state. In this image, Lawrence residents rally against the amendment. (Lily O’Shea Becker/Lawrence Journal-World)
Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Laurel Burchfield is the associate director of Mainstream Coalition, where she advocates for commonsense policy.
“We believe fervently in the American Way, which stands for the separation of religion and state. Naturally, we are to live out our beliefs within the political state as private citizens, but we do not attempt to use the state’s political system to enforce our belief system upon our pluralistic neighbors.” — Bob Meneilly at The Village Church, Aug. 15, 1993
A popular phrase found on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and memes reads, “If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.”
Well, everyone I know right now is angry as we continue to process recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court — including the attack against reproductive rights with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the potential dismantling of LGBTQ equality coming down the pike based on Justice Clarence Thomas’ written concurrence, and the broadening interpretation of the Second Amendment and loosening of gun laws immediately following two mass shootings in New York and Texas. And that’s just scratching the surface of things that we should all be angry about as the court repeatedly violates one of our most fundamental freedoms by shattering the wall between religion and government.
We’re also scared, because for as much as the Supreme Court is taking this country into new and dangerous territory, we also have a roadmap for what comes next. Allow me to paint that picture for you:
- If the Aug. 2 constitutional amendment passes, the Kansas Legislature will ban abortions in Kansas. This isn’t speculation based on fear but knowledge based on years of legislation that has been introduced and supported by the majority party, including a bill introduced this year that would have criminalized all abortions with just a small carve out for acts necessary to save a mother’s life during an ectopic pregnancy. The so-called “Value Them Both” campaign is putting out a lot of misleading information about what exactly this amendment does. The language on the ballot doesn’t mention an abortion ban. But let’s be very clear about what the ultimate goal is. A yes vote gives immediate power to the Kansas Legislature to pass legislation banning abortion, and that is exactly what they will do.
- The U.S. Supreme Court will continue to tear down the wall separating religion from government. Again, this is happening right now with recent decisions that prioritize religious rights — and specifically Christian rights — over the First Amendment. In the case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Court sided with a public school teacher who led prayer at football games and overturned 60 years of precedent that kept mandated prayer out of public school settings. There is no reason to believe that this conservative court made up of judges who are bringing their own religious beliefs to the bench will stop hearing, and ultimately ruling for, cases that chip away at the constitutional protection from the government establishment of religion.
There is no reason to believe that this conservative court made up of judges who are bringing their own religious beliefs to the bench will stop hearing, and ultimately ruling for, cases that chip away at the constitutional protection from the government establishment of religion.
– Laurel Burchfield
- Public education will fall apart as private and religious schools are favored and given public dollars by the Kansas Legislature. We have fought for years to keep taxpayer dollars away from vouchers that would go to religious schools, but extremist legislators continue to push this agenda. Now, they have support from another U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Carson v. Makin) finding that states can not keep public dollars from going to religious schools. This is alarming not just because private schools obviously don’t always adhere to the same standards and strict oversight as public schools, but also because religious schools can, and some do, legally discriminate against certain students. Specifically, they don’t have to accept or respect LGBTQ students or students from different religious backgrounds. When — and at this point it is looking more like when and not if — the Kansas Legislature passes legislation establishing vouchers for religious schools, it will be state-sponsored and funded discrimination.
- States will be both restricted and empowered to make laws governing their residents, as long as those states represent a certain extremist viewpoint. Congress may have passed the first bipartisan gun control legislation in decades, but the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v Bruen signaled that there are very specific and confusing rules regarding a state’s authority to make laws affecting an individual’s rights and freedoms. Apparently, an individual’s right to own and publicly carry a gun is almost completely beyond the state’s regulation, yet the state should have every authority to make decisions regarding that same individual’s bodily autonomy. As long as extremists continue to take and exert power in state government, we’ll continue to see this hypocrisy in what rights should exist, and who gets to make those decisions.
Are you angry yet? Are you paying attention? Because this next part is important.
Every politician will tell you the same thing — Kansans are practical people who want common sense policies for our state. The difference lies in what is considered “common sense.”
Do we want a state where, as Mainstream Coalition founder Bob Meneilly predicted nearly 30 years ago, religious extremists dictate what is good for everyone based narrowly on their religious beliefs? Or do we believe in the common sense principles of the separation of religion and government and in electing individuals who put Kansans’ interests before ideology and outside influence?
Now is the time to start asking candidates about their position on issues that matter to you, and to start holding them accountable for their words and actions.
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