WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of a bipartisan group of over 120 state lawmakers serving in statehouses across the country, prominent legislative leaders from nine states today announced the formation of the nation's first state religious freedom caucuses. The national teleconference announcement was organized and hosted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center's American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP). The announcement is the first installment in a national plan to have religious freedom caucuses in all 50 state legislatures by the end of 2013.
The new caucuses are composed of lawmakers in prominent leadership positions in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The caucuses will help legislators set state-specific agendas for strengthening religious liberties, learn from the experiences of sister states, and formulate religious freedom policy based on input from each state's diverse faith communities.
"Faith communities across the nation have begun working together to secure and strengthen our cherished religious liberties on behalf of all Americans of all faiths," said Brian W. Walsh, ARFP's executive director. "Today the movement to defend religious freedom is being joined by a bipartisan group of highly effective legislators in nine state capitals who will provide unifying leadership on these issues."
Rep. Lance Kinzer, a founding member of Kansas's religious freedom caucus, spoke about today's announcement. "Kansans and all Americans recognize the indispensable role that our remarkable religious freedoms have played in making America a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples across the globe," said Rep. Kinzer. "Legislative caucuses focused on religious freedom will help ensure that each statehouse is a bulwark against overreaching government officials and policies that would corrupt or curtail those freedoms."
Rep. John J. DeBerry, Jr., is one of the founders of Tennessee's religious freedom caucus. According to Rep. DeBerry, "Religious diversity in America is increasing greatly, and the only way we will hold together as one people is by continuing to ensure robust religious freedoms and rights of conscience for all Americans." DeBerry added that "some government leaders seem to have forgotten that freedom of religion includes keeping government out of matters that properly belong to America's faith communities."
Leaders of each state caucus will guide that state's agenda for enacting specific protections for religious freedom. The American Religious Freedom Program will work with a broad range of legislators, religious leaders, and other coalition members to help form additional caucuses and produce state-specific educational materials on religious freedom.
To schedule an interview with the Ethics and Public Policy Center or caucus organizers from Ariz., Colo., Fla., Idaho, Kan., Mo., N.H., Okla., and Tenn., please contact Sarah Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-954-5300.
EPPC's American Religious Freedom Program is devoted to protecting and strengthening Americans' God-given and constitutional religious freedoms. The program brings together individuals and organizations of all religious faiths, regardless of ideological or political affiliation. ARFP is fighting the trend to delegitimize religious expression in public life, defending Americans' ability to live out their religious beliefs beyond the walls of their houses of worship. For more information, visit religiousfreedom.org and religiousfreedomnews.org or twitter.com/religfreedom.
SOURCE American Religious Freedom Program