Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Controversial Puerto Rico Religious Freedom Protection Act sent to governor

By on January 30, 2018

SAN JUAN – With 11 votes against from legislators of all parties and two abstentions, the Puerto Rico Senate approved Monday the controversial House Bill 1018 to create the Religious Freedom Protection Act, which would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against others if they believe their freedom of religion has been transgressed.

HB 1018, which was introduced by House Speaker Carlos Méndez and Reps. María Milagros Charbonier and Guillermo Miranda Rivera, was re-evaluated in conference committee after the House did not concur with the upper chamber’s amendments in the ordinary session that ended in December.

The legislation has been sent to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who in May announced he would not sign any bill that promotes discrimination.

Puerto Rico’s Capitol (CB photo)

“Our administration has clearly established that it will not limit the rights that have been granted to the different sectors of our society, both legally and/or via legislation,” the governor had said.

During Monday’s session, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said that in the debate process he “did not change principles or values for votes” and assured that with the bill’s passage “there is no intention to take away anyone’s rights […,] religious people included.” The revised bill establishes that “nothing in this law may be used for the State to deny or stop providing any service to any person who requests, requires or needs it.”

The senators who voted against the bill were Zoé Laboy, Miguel Romero, Abel Nazario, Eduardo Bhatia, José Luis Dalmau, Miguel Pereira, Cirilo Tirado, Aníbal José Torres, José Vargas Vidot and Juan Dalmau. Meanwhile, Sens. Larry Seilhamer and Álex Roque abstained from participating in the vote.

“With this bill, the balance [between church and state] is threatened,” Bhatia argued.

Independent Sen. Vargas Vidot, meanwhile, criticized the bill for creating “a parameter for discrimination,” adding that “faith comes from within and does not need to be defended.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login