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First Coast Connect

02/15/16: Religious Freedom Restoration Act; TAVR; The American Legion; Cole Pepper

  Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri announced Saturday that he will suspend his push to adopt local discrimination protections for the LGBT community.

Hazouri is withdrawing his bill that would amend the city’s human rights ordinance to protect those citizens from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations. The move means this divisive local issue will be put on the back burner, at least for now, leaving Jacksonville one of the largest major cities that still lacks legal discrimination protection for the LGBT community.

The HRO has been controversial in large part because opponents have raised religious objections to the legislation.

We’ve also seen the debate over rights vs. religious liberty at the national level.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. recognized a for-profit corporation's claim of religious belief. Following this ruling many states, including Florida, have since proposed expanding state religious freedom laws to include for-profit corporations.

We speak with Toni Van Pelt is co-founder, president and Congressional lobbyist for the Institute for Science and Human Values. She’ll be speaking about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and what she calls its its dangers to secular society and government at an event presented by the First Coast Freethought Society.

People who are at risk and considered poor surgical candidates for open heart surgery now have a new option when it comes to replacing heart valves. Cardiologists at Baptist Heart Specialists in collaboration with cardiothoracic surgeons at Baptist Heart Hospital now offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive surgical procedure that replaces the valve without removing the old, damaged one. Interventional cardiologist C. David Hassel, MD, chief of cardiology for Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, joins us with more about the procedure.

We learn about two upcoming service sessions from the American Legion to assist local veterans. Past National Commander Clarence Hill and District Area Auxiliary President Annie Anderson join us.

And WJCT sports analyst Cole Pepper stops by with a look at the Jacksonville Armada's win over Orlando City this weekend, and other local sports news.

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Sean Birch joined the WJCT team in late 2011 and was with the company until 2016.