Arkansas Lawmakers Send RFRA (HB 1228) to Gov. Hutchinson’s Desk

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
March 31, 2015 6:16 pm

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Arkansas RFRA First to Pass After Indiana’s Controversial ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

March 31, 2015

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas House of Representatives today voted in favor of sending HB 1228, a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. The bill would allow anyone to claim that they have a right to refuse to follow laws that protect against harm or discrimination.

The Arkansas RFRA is similar to the controversial bill that passed in Indiana last week despite strong opposition from the local and national business communities. Widespread discontent was voiced even after Indiana RFRA became law by leadership at Apple, Yelp, PayPal, and sports organizations the NBA, WNBA and NCAA who are concerned that the discriminatory law will have a negative effect on the state’s economy and ability to attract talent.

“The legislature and governor of Arkansas should heed the economic damage and vocal public outcry that Indiana is facing and stop this bill in its tracks,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “Religious freedom is a fundamental value but it should not be used to justify harm or discrimination against others.”

If the bill becomes law, it can be used in litigation between two private parties and can be used to challenge “likely” burdens on religious exercise, potentially meaning, before a burden is actually imposed.

The RFRA is sponsored by the same duo of lawmakers as the Intrastate Commerce and Improvement Act, SB 202, which preempts local nondiscrimination policies and prevents equal protection. SB 202 was introduced in response to Fayetteville, Ark. passing nondiscrimination ordinances that protected LGBT people.

The Arkansas RFRA is one of 24 introduced in 15 states this year that could allow someone to use their religious beliefs to discriminate.

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