Let’s unpack the Chambersburg Exploratory Committee’s report

CHAMBERSBURG – Borough Council holds a special meeting 1 September 2021 at the Capitol Theatre. Details on that click here. What Ward do you live in – CLICK HERE. Who is your Council Person – CLICK HERE. When in contact with your Council Person – Share with every Council person additionally.

UPDATE: Additional info – a RTK revealed that Borough Council President along with borough manager and the deputy borough manager have been moving the effort along for a new non-discrimination ordinance since last August – they wanted to use it apparently, for several reasons. From their emails they wanted an ordinance to not just say ” don’t do this and don’t do that but rather about a mechanism to investigate and punish citizens and businesses for violating discrimination on the local level” and to promote controversial racial issues such as “systemic racism” and reparations – all of which promotes an leftist progressive ideology they appear to want to use mandated policies / law to impose on the community while being less than transparent about this.

Meetings on demand – Click & Watch Meeting 3 (Charles Gable Gettysburg Borough Manager, Sean Shultz, Carlisle Mayor, Carl Summerson, PA Human Relations Commission)  2021-06-16 18.10.00 Exploratory Committee 9704… Click & Watch -Meeting 2 (Jeffrey Stonehill, Chambersburg Borough Manager, Tyler Beaston, Salzman Hughes)  2021-05-26 18.26.09 Exploratory Committee 9497… Click & Watch Meeting 5 (Wilson College President Wesley Fugate, Megan Shreve SCCAP, Robert and Nicole Hewitt, Pastor Scott Bowerman)  zoom_0.mp4 – Click & Watch Meeting 6(Jason Goodman, Preston Heldibridle PA Youth Congress, Jack Jones BOPIC, Pastor Adam Meredith Antrim BIC)  zoom_0.mp4 – Click & Watch June 29 Meeting 4 (Mike Ross FCADC, Stephen Christian Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, Jeremy Samek, Randell Wenger, Independence Law Center) –  zoom_0.mp4

BACKGROUND – Attorney Clint Barkdoll joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen earlier this month for the Big Talk on First News where the three took an in-depth look at the report and consequent recommendation from an Exploratory Committee formed by the Chambersburg Borough Council.

The Exploratory Committee was charged with looking at the need for a nondiscrimination ordinance in Chambersburg for the LGBTQ+ community as well as a possible local Human Relations Commission.

The committee’s report can be found here: https://www.chambersburgpa.gov/pdf/Press%20Release%20-%20Exploratory%20Committee%20Releases%20Final%20Report%20and%20Recommendation%20080621.pdf

Jansen said, “This was brought about by LGBTQ+ activists who want to make sure we enshrine in law protections which they already have basically through the housing and employment, federal and some state through the Human Relations Commission but they’re pushing municipalities to put this into their laws. We heard about this back probably in April from the council and they did an exploratory committee to look into this, they brought in some guest testifiers and they put out their recommendation Friday. That came out on a press release. They’re recommending, go ahead and pass this. The meeting tonight in the borough they will be setting a special meeting to consider and I assume vote on this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to go and tell them, ‘I didn’t even hear about this.’ They were very not transparent about this. The meetings were not held that any of the public or media could be there in person. They did it only via Zoom. They didn’t ever put on the agenda that this was related mostly to LGBTQ+ type of nondiscrimination.”

Ryan added, “And they invited I believe just two business people on the whole platform.”

Barkdoll read the press release and the proposed ordinance, which they took from the Borough of Gettysburg just about verbatim.

Barkdoll said, “None of this, of course, is a surprise. We’ve been saying for months they were going to recommend this. I don’t think we knew that they were going to necessarily say adopt what Gettysburg did, verbatim.”

The press released pointed out that none of the expanded protections are codified.

Barkdoll explained, “Meaning that it’s not statute in Pennsylvania, which is true. However, they go on to say many of these protections are in place now through both federal and state court rulings and they make this, I think, kind of dubious argument that it could go away. Any court at any time could come in and overrule it. Well, that’s true of any issue in our world, but I think if that’s their main argument for this, that piece is pretty flimsy.

He continued, “Now on the other side, I was struck by, they’re saying there are 69 other municipalities in Pennsylvania that have adopted these nondiscrimination ordinances and they’re pointing out that there have been no legal challenges to that. I think that’s a good sign because I would have guessed there would be many more legal challenges. A data point to me that is almost conspicuous by its absence that I would be very interested in knowing is how many complaints have these 69 other municipalities heard under these ordinances? I have a feeling they deliberately don’t want to disclose that because it may be such a low number, which kind of undermines the argument that there’s just this incredible demand or need for this.”

One good point is the exemptions.

Barkdoll said, “I was pleased to see there is a carve-out for religious and educational institutions so those types of groups would be exempt if this ordinance gets adopted. To me, the biggest take away was in the ordinance itself. You look at the enforcement mechanisms, this thing is largely advisory. The very language of the ordinance says the borough has no authority to enforce any of this. There’s no penalties. They can’t force someone to go into court. All they can do is ask for someone to participate in mediation and if the person says no, the borough’s out of the case. In which case, a complainant would just go to the state Human Relations Commission, which they could do from square one anyway. So the ordinance itself in that respect, from a purely legal standpoint, has no teeth. It doesn’t give the borough the authority to do anything.”

Jansen argued, “Two ways I’ll push back a little on what you said. Yes I know it has that exemption for religious organizations. What about the religious individual? What about the individual of conscience where I believe genetic men and women, which is scientifically and medically true, are men and women and I shouldn’t be forced to behave as if I believe the opposite. That doesn’t mean don’t be kind. That doesn’t mean anyone’s allowed to bully anyone but I shouldn’t be labeled as some kind of –obic or –ist, some kind of hater because I simply accept the fact that a genetic man is a genetic man and a genetic woman is a genetic woman.”

Barkdoll confirmed, “There is no exemption for individuals. It is clear it’s only organizations. So these would be things like churches, schools, public and private, and other related-type organizations. So in the context of an individual I don’t think that same protection would apply.”

Jansen added, “In that ordinance, it really bothered me there’s some clause in there that says about religious organizations that don’t receive any public money or may it’s the opposite. They do seem to think they can do something about public money and organizations.”

Barkdoll said, “I noticed that in there. I’m not really sure either what that’s referring to. If they’re talking in a broader context like they get tax exemption, they’re 501(c)(3) entities, that would be every religious organization, every school. So I’m not sure either what that was referring to but again, I share those same concerns in the language of the ordinance. But then you get down to the penalty and violation phase and it clearly says the borough has no jurisdiction to enter any penalty or enforce any penalty against anyone for a violation of the ordinance. So what’s the point of this? Or is this to just make everyone feel good. You’re going to implement an ordinance that by your own admission, you can’t enforce it. I don’t understand what the purpose of it would be.”

Jansen said, “It is interesting that they can’t really do anything, but they can. They can hurt peoples’ reputations very badly and that in and of itself, that’s a fear factor. That’s an intimidation factor.”

Ryan asked, “And what’s the come back on that then? What’s the comeback for that individual?

Barkdoll said, “I think one of the questions in this is, is any of this public? If someone files a complaint against you and you appear before this panel, again, their only remedy is mediation. In Pennsylvania by definition, meditations are private. What is said and done in a mediation is never admissible in a subsequent court proceeding. So my guess is what the borough’s defense would be to the point you just raised is none of this can ever be made public. It’s not subject to a right to know. The contents of what happens in a mediation can’t be disclosed.”

Barkdoll continued, “Nonetheless I think a person could argue that I was accused of this and I still had to come in to a private session where maybe people have learned that this accusation was made and if that’s the case and if it’s a totally frivolous claim, I still think that person would have their own independent legal rights to pursue some kind of a slander or defamation action.”