Denlinger statement on freedom of conscience amendment to Pennsylvania Constitution

News release

HARRISBURG – Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) recently made public his intention to draft an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would clarify that document’s intent to protect freedom of conscience. Although the legislation is still being drafted and none of the language has been made public, many have asked questions about it. Denlinger today issued the following statement in response to those questions:
“As a result of receiving a substantial number of questions from friends and community leaders, I feel the need to clarify some misconceptions surrounding my Freedom of Conscience Amendment to the Pennsylvania State Constitution. Unfortunately, some media outlets have confused this issue and concerns are being raised from many people of good will. While no bill has yet been introduced, some in the media have engaged in misguided speculation over how the amendment will actually function, and some have gone so far as to quote lines in a bill that does not yet officially exist.”
“Most disturbing to me is that some have chosen to portray the bill as being an open door to renewed discrimination. I have also heard from friends and neighbors who have expressed a level of personal hurt over the idea that my views on civil rights were accepting of a return to our tragically segregated past. Nothing could be further from the truth. So passionate am I on fighting discrimination that I authored a resolution marking every April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day in Pennsylvania. I count the passage of that measure (House Resolution 130 of 2013) which honors one of my life heroes, a triumph for all that it signifies, and an honest reflection of my views on civil rights.”
“It is the duty of leaders to take an honest and careful look at our communities, giving ear to the deeper concerns of our citizens, so that we can determine the best course forward in self-governance. I have heard the concerns of many and I wish to assure all that the drafting of this amendment is being done with great care. As such, the draft language of my bill is currently being reviewed by constitutional law experts, and I will not introduce any final language until I am confident it is well vetted. Since adding an amendment to our state Constitution will have far-reaching implications, arriving at the proper wording must be handled with thoughtfulness and precision.”
“As I seek to initiate a public dialogue on conscience-level protections, I need to share my strong sense that many of my socially moderate and left-leaning friends do not realize that their social and religious conservative neighbors all across Lancaster County (and I count myself among this cohort) are fully convinced that government-sanctioned persecution of individuals and entities holding to traditional beliefs is not only coming — it is already here.”
“Admittedly, it will be legally difficult to thread the needle of protecting individuals and entities at the level of sincerely held beliefs, while not opening the door to some outcomes that might raise some concerns with the majority. But I do believe recent events highlight the need for some form of protection at the level of individual and entity belief and practice. William Penn created this special place we call Pennsylvania as a safe haven for my Anabaptist forbearers and other groups who dared to believe and live differently than the majority. I am committed to preserving Penn’s noble ideal!”
Representative Gordon Denlinger
99th District Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Charles Lardner 717.260.6443

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