FFRF strongly opposes Wisconsin anti-civil-rights bill

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is opposing a regressive Wisconsin bill that would eliminate civil rights

1Wisco protections in Madison under the guise of setting “statewide labor standards.”

In truth, the bill would remove every local government protection against labor discrimination across the state. SB 634 would eviscerate the employee protections of Madison’s Department of Civil Rights, leaving workers no recourse outside of the clunky Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Madison’s Equal Opportunity Ordinance protects many vulnerable classes of individuals that lack statewide protection, and also provides compensatory damages in sexual harassment cases. The bill would terminate all of these protections. It would also prevent other local communities from creating laws that protect employees from religious discrimination in the workplace.

In 2015, FFRF helped to expand the scope of Madison’s Equal Opportunity Ordinance to include atheists, and nonbelievers in general, as a protected class. The ordinance change, which initially met a rocky reception, was proposed by outgoing Alder Anita Weier. The testimonies of FFRF Staff Attorneys Patrick Elliott and Andrew Seidel appeared to convince a subcommittee to recommend approval to the council. Eventually, 14 members of the 20-member council agreed to sponsor it, and it passed by voice vote without dissent.

Madison’s expansive civil rights protections are a worthy model for the rest of the state to follow. If legislators want statewide uniformity, they should adopt state protections that mirror Madison’s Equal Opportunity Ordinance.

SB 634 and its Assembly counterpart, AB 748, are both currently awaiting committee review. FFRF urges Wisconsin lawmakers to oppose these bills and to expand, not eliminate, civil rights protections in Wisconsin.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based national nonprofit organization with 30,000 members across the country, including more than 1,300 members in Wisconsin. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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