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Arkansas Lawmakers Approve Religious Liberty Bill Amid Firestorm Over Indiana Law

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Americans, Indiana, Arkansas, 'Religious Freedom', Gay Rights, discrimination, politics, government, dishonesty, ethics, freedoms, corruption, abuse, republicans, lies, propaganda, news, constitution )

- 1267 days ago -
Amid intense criticism of Indiana's religious liberties bill, which has prompted lawmakers in that state to vow that they would fix the legislation, another state charged ahead with a similar bill.


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Carrie B (306)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 2:33 pm

Amid intense criticism of Indiana’s religious liberties bill, which has prompted lawmakers in that state to vow that they would fix the legislation, another state charged ahead with a similar bill. Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday passed a religious liberty bill, putting the state on the verge of formally adopting a law that could lead to another firestorm.

On Tuesday afternoon, after some debate in the state House of Representatives, lawmakers signed off on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law now heads to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who has said he intends to sign it into law.

“This legislation doesn’t allow anybody to discriminate against anybody, not here,” State Rep. Bob Ballinger, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The bill does just the opposite. It focuses on the civil rights of people believing what they want to believe, and not letting the government interfere with that.”

Ballinger, an attorney who represents a district in northwestern Arkansas, said that he agrees with Pence in that “there needs to be some clarity in the perception of the legislation.”

“What my bill does is protect a person’s right to believe what they want to believe,” he said. “That should be the focus of this bill, without being muddied by a bunch of other things. As it sits right now, it’s not going to enable a person to discriminate.”

He said that the bill he sponsored is similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the laws in place in other states. However, critics say that the bill in Arkansas — as well as the Indiana law — are dissimilar because of how they allow companies the same religious rights as individuals.

“It’s substantively different from other laws that are on the books in other states, and it’s right in line with Indiana’s,” Adam Talbot, a spokesman for the Human Rights Council, said Monday “Indiana and Arkansas both grant ‘personhood’ to all corporations.”

[FACT CHECKER: Is the controversial Indiana law ‘the same’ as a law backed by Obama?]

As the collective outrage aimed at Indianapolis grew, activist groups were joined by high-profile business leaders (like Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple) and organizations (like the NCAA), which Indiana’s leaders say caught them by surprise. “Was I expecting this kind of backlash?” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said Tuesday at a news conference. “Heavens no.”

This controversy has also extended to other states. A similar bill in North Carolina would “make no sense,” Gov. Pat McRrory (R) said in a radio interview, while explaining that he was not inclined to sign such legislation. Georgia lawmakers canceled a hearing that would have touched on their version of the bill Monday, leaving its immediate future uncertain as the legislative session is expected to end Thursday.

The Arkansas bill was approved Tuesday despite a last-minute attempt to send it back to a legislative committee so that an anti-discrimination amendment could be added.

State Rep. Clark Tucker, a Democrat, spoke on the House floor in favor of adding such language.

“I think everyone in this room is aware that this bill has attracted a lot of attention,” he said. “I think every member of this body and the vast majority of the general public supports protecting religious liberty. I do believe its attracted a lot of public attention because it creates the perception that it affirmatively authorizes discrimination.”

Tucker said in his statement on the House floor he believed that the current bill “could create discriminatory effects.”

Still, the bill was approved and sent to Hutchinson, who said he intends to sign it.

“I have said if this bill reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states then I will sign it, but I am pleased that the legislature is continuing to look at ways to assure balance and fairness in the legislation,” Hutchinson said in a statement Monday.

However, the bill could become law even if it makes it to Hutchinson’s desk and he does not act. A note in the bill’s text says that it goes into effect whether he signs off on it or simply lets it sit on his desk until the period window allocated for him to act runs out.

Hutchinson’s office said it did not have a timeframe for when he might act on the bill.

“This is not a conservative or liberal thing,” Ballinger said. “Most people agree that religion should be protected under heightened scrutiny standards, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Ballinger said that his bill does not address the issue of whether or not people could be turned away by a business due to their sexuality, saying that this could already happen.

“That question does not even apply to my bill, because currently as it applies, the LGBT is not in a protected class, so my bill would not address that,” he said.

He also said that if someone wants to legislatively add anti-discriminatory language, the way to do that is for someone to push forward a bill with that kind of language.

“It may take some time for people to realize that it’s not any different from the law that’s in place in 31 other states,” he said. “The law that was voted on by President Clinton, that was voted on by President Obama, twice. This bill does exactly what those bills do, which is protect an individual’s religious liberty.”

Animae C (506)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 2:33 pm
They're all mad!

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 2:36 pm
Yeah. . . it could get very messy!
Thanks Carrie.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 4:42 pm
This is so awful that's it's just tough to believe really. Just thought it was an ugly prank at 1st. I've already signed as of today 8 petitions on this ugliness. I'm shocked to be honest. Thanks Carrie

Solitary Eagle (324)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 4:47 pm
It's a sad day for Arkansas.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 31, 2015, 5:33 pm
VERY troubling developments in the US there!! If this type of stuff isn't stopped at the root and quickly, it spells disaster to come. Material qualified for civil war.

Louise D (44)
Wednesday April 1, 2015, 4:45 am
The idea that hiding discrimination under the guise of religious liberty shows a level of hypocrisy that the religious right is willing to deny basic human rights to minorities. I think if they had bothered to read a dictionary to see that Religious liberty is about tolerance.

Jason R (67)
Wednesday April 1, 2015, 10:11 am
This is the south rising again. Pathetic.

Janet B (0)
Wednesday April 1, 2015, 12:24 pm

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday April 1, 2015, 1:48 pm
Noted (hopefully working today). Thanks, Carrie.
These hate bills are such a waste of time for these states' legislatures. For all the screaming the Fux Noise republicans do about Sharia Law, it seems they should be pointing their fingers back at themselves because this reeks of it. I read earlier that one Xtian Evangelical group stated they won't hold their convention in IN due to this law; so there's pushback even among the rightwing.
I've also signed several petitions and sent letters against this hateful law, and will continue to.

Lucy S (47)
Wednesday April 1, 2015, 4:22 pm
This is a major embarrassment to the US. What is going on? I didn't know that it is legal to openly discriminate, let alone..pass a law to do such a thing! I have also signed many petitions against this cruel and despicable law.

Lady Suki (446)
Thursday April 2, 2015, 6:30 am
Do they think that they can slip this in while people are focused on Indiana? I feel bad for the people in these states that do not support such bills, their entire state's reputation gets dragged through the mud. Guilty by association. Now when people think Indiana, first thing that pops into your head is likely to be Anti Gay Bill (or "Religious Freedom" bill) depending on which side you are on.

Winn Adams (179)
Thursday April 2, 2015, 9:15 am
Come out of the dark ages Arkansas! You are an embarrassment to the world.

Ingrid A (524)
Thursday April 2, 2015, 9:25 am
Signed petition about this.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday April 2, 2015, 9:59 am
Any bill with some "Freedom...Act" should IMMEDIATELY have all alarm bells ring!

Lady Suki (446)
Friday April 3, 2015, 2:26 pm
Sad, but true Angelika.

Gillian M (11)
Thursday April 9, 2015, 11:16 am
The idea is that the American courts do not use Sharia law in their courts to come to a decision rather than American law which some law courts have done. This article is purely Muslim propaganda. After all, who else has objected? I don't see Presbyterians jumping up and down, silence from Sikhs and Hindus and absolutely nothing from Jews, Rastafarians, Taoist, Maoris or those that practise Obeah and Myalism......

And it is appalling that any state has to protect the American justice system from outside systems and even worse that people are jumping up and down over it.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The injustice here is to use anything other that American justice. Anyone who wants Sharia law can go to a country that practices it. Bye carrie
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