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'Anti-religious bigotry': Nebraska Dem's bill would ban kids from vacation Bible schools, church youth groups

A Nebraska Democrat was accused of "anti-religious bigotry" after introducing a bill to ban children from attending church youth groups in response to GOP attempts to ban minors from drag shows

A Democratic lawmaker in Nebraska is being accused by Republicans of "anti-religious bigotry" after she proposed to ban children from attending church youth groups or vacation Bible schools.

State Sen. Megan Hunt says her amendment, which would ban children under 19 years of age from attending a "religious indoctrination camp," is intended to kill the underlying bill, LB 371, a measure put forward by Republicans to ban minors from attending drag performances. The text of the amendment asserts there is a "well-documented history of indoctrination and sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders and clergy people upon children." 

It is a tongue-in-cheek response to Republicans who have said children should not be exposed to explicit sexual content at drag shows.

"This is an amendment that I will use to make a point," Hunt told Fox News Digital. "This amendment obviously won’t pass, and I would withdraw it if it had the votes to pass. It’s a device to make a point, so there is no need to worry."

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But GOP lawmakers accused Hunt of, at best, not taking her job seriously and, at worst, displaying condemnable intolerance. 

"The bigotry she's shown in thinking this amendment (and – perhaps – her job?) is a joke is alarming," Republican state Sen. Julie Slama told Fox News Digital.

"I second Sen. Slama's remarks," said state Sen. Dave Murman, who introduced LB 371. "That amendment is a great example of the far left's repeated attempt to demonize Christian patriots across Nebraska."

Hunt's amendment states that "abusers within churches and other religious institutions often use events like church or youth-group-sponsored camps and retreats to earn children's trust and gain unsupervised access to such children in order to commit [sexual] abuse." 

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It defines a "religious indoctrination camp" as "a camp, vacation Bible study, retreat, lock-in, or convention held by a church, youth group, or religious organization for the purpose of indoctrinating children with a specific set of religious beliefs." 

The text mimics the underlying bill, LB 371, which Slama said "keeps kids from attending hyper-sexualized events." 

LB 371 would prohibit anyone under 19 from attending a drag show and would prevent those under 21 from attending if alcohol is served. The bill defines a drag show as when a performer exhibiting "a gender identity that is different than the performer's gender assigned at birth" engages in singing, lip-syncing, dancing or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment. It would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly bring a minor to a drag performance. 

Business or nonprofit owners who host drag shows could face a misdemeanor charge if minors are present and could be fined $10,000 for each violation. 

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"The goal of LB 371 is to allow our kids to be kids, not collateral damage of the woke agenda," Slama said. 

Hunt's amendment strikes references to drag performances and replaces them with "religious indoctrination camp," imposing the same penalties on individuals and businesses that permit children to go to youth religious activities. 

Hunt says she's introduced similar controversial amendments that aren't meant to pass but rather are intended to illustrate her opposition to "harmful and discriminatory bills like LB 371." 

For instance, to oppose a bill that required DNA collection of everyone accused of a crime, Hunt filed an amendment that required DNA collection from anyone who submits an application for a concealed carry permit. 

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"They aren’t meant to pass," Hunt insisted. "They are meant to help kill harmful and discriminatory bills like LB371 which, if we are forced to debate in the full legislature, will truly be a waste of time for Nebraskans and for lawmakers. Part of my job here is to work to pass or block bills that I support or oppose. This is just what happens in the course of that work."

LB 371 is co-sponsored by nine Republican lawmakers and has been scheduled for a committee hearing. 

In addition to her amendment, Hunt filed a motion to indefinitely postpone the bill from consideration. 

The ACLU of Nebraska has said the bill is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. 

"Let’s call this what it is – an unconstitutional censorship attempt rooted in a coordinated national effort to push LGBTQ+ people out of public life," said Jane Seu, ACLU of Nebraska legal and policy counsel, in a statement issued after the bill was introduced earlier this month. 

"Drag is a visual expression and creative celebration of LGBTQ+ culture. It has been a part of the creative community for centuries and this bill would have far-reaching implications on the historical tradition of artistic freedom. All-ages shows are protected the same as any other artistic performance," Seu added. 

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Republicans dispute this claim and say LB 371 mirrors language that keeps minors away from strip clubs. GOP lawmakers in other states like Arkansas have advanced similar bills with similar arguments. 

"We set laws regarding when kids can drink, attend a club, vote, join the military, drive, or consent to a surgical procedure," Murman told Fox News Digital. "I think a sexualized performance like a drag show is definitely something Nebraska should prevent child attendance at."

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