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Sponsor says governor's amendment is the exact opposite of religious expression bill's intent

Youngkin Executive Order Signature
Steve Helber/AP
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin prepares to sign executive orders in the governors conference room at the Capitol, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Lawmakers will be back in Richmond next week to consider several amendments from the governor.

Sometimes amendments from the governor are friendly. Other times they’re hostile and perhaps even do damage to the original intent of the bill. Delegate Irene Shin is a Democrat from Fairfax County who says the governor's amendment to one of her bills does the exact opposite of what she was trying to accomplish. Her original bill protected people from discrimination because they had an outward expression of faith, like a headscarf or a yarmulke. She says the governor’s amendment ends up protecting people who want to engage in discrimination.

"I think about the example of some who would say, 'I can't use your proper pronouns because that might go against my religious beliefs,'" Shin says.

Allowing discrimination based on religious belief is opening up the door to problems, says Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

"One time I had somebody say to me that part of her religious practice was that she only ate local food, and that if I didn't provide her local food as part of our program then I was discriminating against her religion," Bobo says. "Well that was nuts then, but this bill would put that kind of craziness into practice."

Supporters of the amendment say the governor is just trying to clarify what the bill was trying to do, not change the meaning altogether. Delegate Shin says she plans to question whether the amendment is germane or needs to be thrown out.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.