Senate bill to allow business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Senate Bill 1250 allows business owners to refuse service based on deeply held religious beliefs.

With specific language about homosexuality, many think it is specifically targeting same sex marriages.

"Oklahomans should have every expectation that their government will not discriminate against them for their sincerely held religious beliefs through a loss of their job or business," said the bill's author, Josh Brecheen, in a statement to News 4.

Opponents say it violates the Bill of Rights.

"It just allows religion to be used as a weapon to discriminate and that is certainly not in the spirit of the first amendment," said Allie Shinn of ACLU Oklahoma.

Supporters say the bill allows Christians to stay true to their beliefs.

"I couldn’t go to a Muslim deli and demand that they serve me a bacon sandwich because that violates their religious belief system, their conscience, and it would be wrong of me to try to force them to do so," said Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond.

Opponents say the bill is way too broad, allowing clerks the ability to refuse the issue of a marriage license or for doctors to refuse to see patients.

"As this bill is written, a business owner could refuse to serve somebody of a differing faith. They could even potentially refuse to serve a single mother or a divorced person," said Shinn.

LGBTQ leaders are opposed  to the bill based on what they say is discriminatory verbiage. They also claim letting business owners call these shots will hurt business in the state.

"For them to be doing this type of social engineering, this type of horrific pro-discrimination legislation, it's really just hurtful to a state that’s already hurting. This is the type of bill that the chamber of commerce lines up against. This is the type of bill that industry throughout the state lines up against because it puts a dark mark on the state of Oklahoma. People don’t want to do business with a state that blatantly discriminates," said Troy Stevenson of Freedom Oklahoma.

Senator Brecheen says after it was passed, this same bill has held up in courts in other states.

"SB1250 is fully modeled after what the State of Mississippi enacted," said Breechen.

"Oklahoma’s not Mississippi. Oklahoma has never been Mississippi. That’s not what Oklahoma is about, that’s not the Oklahoma standard," said Stevenson.

Supporters say they are happy the bill is being brought to the legislature.

"It will protect Christians from being the victims of that kind of bullying," said Blair.

"It simply discriminates at every possible turn and we are going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t become law," Shinn said.

Supporters say these kind of laws have not hurt business in states like North Carolina and Texas.

Lawmakers are slated to start considering the bill February 5.