A Letter to Governor Hutchinson

Here is the letter that I sent to Governor Asa Hutchinson today regarding HB 1228:

Mr. Governor,

I am writing you in regards to HB 1228, which was voted on and passed by the Arkansas Senate today. As a native, and still voting, Arkansan, I urge you to veto this bill. Further, as a chaplain and candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., I believe this bill is a moral outrage.

If we take a good, honest look at the bill, it is nothing more than a guise for people who want to discriminate against others. The authors and proponents of this bill are taking a stance against something that scares them. And, they are using the idea of religion to push their views onto others. What the authors and proponents failed to take into consideration is the United States Constitution and how federal judges have interpreted the First Amendment. Religious freedoms of all are already protected by federal law. There is no extra need to extend said rights.

Instead, what this bill actually is, is the oppression of people. It is no secret that the authors and proponents of the bill are targeting people of the LGBT community. The Human Rights Campaign knows it. Yelp knows it. Everyone knows it.

As a Christian, I cannot stand idly by and let this bill become law without letting my opinion be known. Jesus tells us that there are two commandments greater than all the others. They are, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV).

If we dictate that people cannot be a certain way, that they cannot exist the only way they know how, then we are not loving them as we love ourself. I cannot tell someone they are not allowed to love who they love, be who they were born as, or dictate how they live their life, all while loving them as I love myself. In my view, that is the opposite of the commandment that Jesus gives. If Christ commands us to love our neighbors, that is what we should do. Unconditionally.

If we were to look to the business side of things, we can see this bill is a bad idea. Yelp has already taken notice of the bill, as noted above. Wal-Mart and Apple have also spoken out against HB 1228. Salesforce is about to leave Indiana. You should see this bill, Mr. Governor, as anti-business if you do not see it as discriminatory. Even if it is repealed in five years, those will be five years that Arkansas will economically suffer. Might I remind you that you will be the governor associated with that time.

Mr. Governor, I hope and pray that you will make the right decision. I want to see Arkansas succeed, because it is the place I do, and always will call home. If this bill is passed into law, the state will fail. We have heard the call from civil rights groups. We have heard the stance of the multi-billion dollar industries that you want to bring into our state. We have heard it from our own corporations that happen to be multi-billion dollar industry giants.

I fear for the future of Arkansas if this bill becomes law. Not only will businesses leave, but people will leave. This bill, if it becomes law, will make certain Arkansans feel that they cannot call The Natural State home anymore. This is a dangerous precedent to set, and I hope you choose to veto this bill.

Godspeed, and good luck with your decision,

Cameron Highsmith
Chaplain

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