Council Member Says She'll Vote Against Church Rezoning Request Because of the Church's Ideology:
The Beaufort (S.C.) Gazette reports:
A county board voted to rezone a greater Bluffton church over the objection of one County Council member who said she'll vote against it because of the Catholic church's stance on reproductive rights and other issues....
During the discussion, Laura Von Harten, who represents Beaufort and Port Royal, but is not a member of the land committee, said she won't support the rezoning when it comes before the council because official Catholic policies are an "affront to my dignity and all of womankind."
Von Harten cited the Catholic church's position against female clergy and "uterus rights" as her reason for opposing the rezoning request.
"I don't want to support anything that will perpetuate that," she said. "I just have to vote in favor of love and not hate." ...
The Catholic News Agency reports the councilwoman's quote further:
If land must be rezoned, she said, “I want it to be to create a loving inclusive mixed-use community and that's the only way I will give up rural land... I just have to vote in favor of love and against hate when I see hate.”
How about voting in favor of First Amendment rights and not against them, or in favor of being "inclusive" of views you disagree with? Fortunately, the member has apparently acknowledged that denying a rezoning request on such a basis is improper:
Saying she intended no infringement of anyone’s religious freedom and did not intend to disparage any individual member of the Church, she added:
“I respect the rights of all people to worship in the church of their choosing. Given the history of persecution endured by members of the Catholic Church, I regret my insensitivity on this matter.”
Saying she was “truly sorry” for having “interjected” her concerns about the Catholic Church into a zoning discussion, she claimed she had “meant only an extension of my overall opposition to development that restricts access on the basis of factors such as race, age or gender but it was an inappropriate forum.”
“Please be assured that I have been reminded of the importance of separation of church and state in matters of land use, and have learned a great deal from this incident,” Von Harten continued, asking for forgiveness and pledging “to approach my duties as councilwoman from a more restrained and objective viewpoint.”
Glad to hear it, though I hope she also recognizes the importance of not discriminating against land users based on their speech, whether they are "church[es]" or not: Such discrimination is a Free Speech Clause violation, not just a matter of the "separation of church and state."