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Governor yet to receive controversial Puerto Rico ‘religious liberty’ bill

By on January 31, 2018

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Wednesday he has not received House Bill 1018, which would create the Religious Liberty Protection Act, but reiterated his stance that he would not enact legislation that attempts to limit or remove rights acquired by different sectors of Puerto Rican society.

“I haven’t read the amendments made, but my position has been very clear…. Unless that [legislation] has undergone major changes, to me any bill that limits [rights] one way or another…well, it shouldn’t be passed,” the governor told the press after his participation in the 2nd Promesa Conference sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

“I always give myself room to read what the Legislative Assembly has done. It hasn’t reached my desk. As soon as I receive it, I will read it…. Unless I see significant changes, my position is the one I established [of not signing it],” he added.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

HB 1018 passed the Legislature on Monday after having been re-evaluated in a conference committee. The bill passed in the Senate with 16 votes in favor and 11 against, while in the House, the bill, authored by Speaker Carlos Méndez and Reps. María Milagros Charbonier and Guillermo Miranda, received 26 votes in favor and six against.

The bill has generated controversy since it was filed last year because, if enacted, it would establish a mechanism for individuals to discriminate against others when the former feels their religious beliefs have been violated. The greatest concern arises from the possibility that public employees could refuse to provide government services if they believe the action transgresses their religious beliefs.

In May 2017, the governor said he would not approve any bill that promotes discrimination.

“Our administration has clearly established that it will not limit rights that have been granted to different sectors of our society, both judicially and legislatively,” the governor said back then.

Controversial Puerto Rico Religious Freedom Protection Act sent to governor

Regarding conservatives’ expectation the governor will sign the bill, Pastor Ricky Rosado said the legislation was “a campaign promise of the governor.”

“This bill was born in Dr. Ricardo Rosselló’s heart. At an event held during the primaries at the Baptist Church of Toa Baja, he brought a list of campaign promises, and the first one he presented there is called ‘religious liberty,’ and says legislation would be considered,” Rosado said during a “Jugando Pelota Dura” TV interview. “He must fulfill his promise.”

Meanwhile, Dr. César Vázquez, head of the conservative group Puerto Rico por la Familia, warned during the same program that “if he [Rosselló] wants a future in Puerto Rico politics, he must sign it [HB 1080].”

According to Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico, which denounces what it believes are violations of the separation of church and state, the legislation “legalizes religiously motivated discrimination.”

The group believes that both stateside and in Puerto Rico, “the far right Christian fringe mostly cares about one issue: harming the LGBTT [communities].”

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