FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Commonwealth Policy Center Issues Statement on Fairness Ordinance Meeting
DATE: May 28, 2019
CONTACT: Richard Nelson (270) 719-1640
(Frankfort, Ky) The Commonwealth Policy Center held a public meeting on the proposed religious freedom amendment to the Paducah Fairness Ordinance and took questions from the public last Tuesday. Altogether, 60 concerned citizens attended the meeting hosted by First Baptist Church of Paducah, including the controversial group Sons of the Confederacy Veterans. The meeting was secretly videotaped, posted on the Internet, and a few comments made by CPC's Executive Director Richard Nelson were taken out of context.
"Our organization's mission is to shore up the pillars of society which are marriage between a man and a woman, the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and fiscal responsibility," Nelson said. "We believe that the Fairness Ordinance in Paducah poses a threat to the religious freedoms of business owners who do not want to be forced to convey messages that violate their deeply held religious convictions."
Nelson gave several examples of LGBT activism in Paducah, including a "womanless" beauty pageant. His comments were conflated by some as criticism of the event sponsor Heart USA, an organization that seeks to assist needy people with expensive medicine. "My statements were not against Heart USA. In fact, I appreciate Heart USA and the good work that they do to help the needy. My comments were opposed to drag shows in principle."
As a result, Nelson reported over 150 negative comments directed at him personally over Facebook. One posted private and personal information meant to discredit him. "We do not believe drag shows are an accurate portrayal of the male design. I did not intend to portray Heart USA in a way that would criticize their charitable work," Nelson said. "This is not the first time we've spoken against the idea of men dressing in drag. Our convictions come from a Judeo-Christian worldview and drag shows undermine what we believe is God's design for human sexuality and healthy community."
Nelson, who has been invited to speak in other communities regarding concerns over Fairness Ordinances, believes his message was distorted and misconstrued by some who are threatened by opposing opinions. "My organization and I are not targeting the LGBT individuals as some contend. Rather we believe that every human being has inherent dignity and deserves respect because we are all made in the image of God," Nelson said. "Just because we have a different opinion on moral boundaries doesn't mean that we hate those on the other side. It means we have a different opinion."
"Our concern over the Fairness Ordinance in Paducah stems from how similar ordinances have been used to intimidate and threaten the ability of religious business owners to run their business based on their deeply held religious convictions, Nelson said. "A prominent case in Lexington, Kentucky involves a graphic designer who was ordered to undergo diversity training by the Human Rights Commission because he refused to print T-shirts promoting an event that violated his religious convictions." The case in now before the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Nelson's organization has been accused of inviting only a select number of people including a group called the Sons of the Confederacy Veterans. "For starters, the meeting was open to the public. So we have no idea who'll show up," Nelson said. Secondly, we promoted it through emails and Facebook. We do not exclude anyone from these events, including our opponents, and depend upon word-of-mouth advertising.”
Nelson believes both sides can find common ground on the issue of fairness. "Fairness needs to include the religious business owner as well as individuals who believe there are moral boundaries of human sexuality. We believe the proposed religious freedom amendment will help to protect the religious liberty of both groups. We're for fairness, but true fairness for all people.”