Written by Don Byrd
State legislatures around the country continue to introduce legislation aimed at religious liberty themes. Here is a rundown of recent developments that caught my eye.
In Georgia, where RFRA-like bills have failed in recent years, lawmakers sound determined to make it work this year. This year’s Senate Bill 233, introduced this week, is simple. It says that the provisions of the federal RFRA law will apply to the State of Georgia. RFRA bars the government from imposing a substantial burden on one’s religious exercise unless it is necessary to further a compelling state interest. Some attempts to codify RFRA into state law have gone astray by changing it in a way that weakens the balance achieved by the federal law. See the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report for more.
In Texas, lawmakers have introduced a series of bills related to religious liberty. These include: 1) a FADA bill (which bars the state from penalizing people for acting in accordance with their religious beliefs about marriage.), 2) a bill allowing clerks to refuse on religious grounds to issue marriage licenses, provided another official can be found to provide the service; 3) a bill allowing religious foster-care organizations to place children in homes in accordance with the organization’s religious beliefs. See the Austin-American Statesman for more.
In Nebraska, Legislative Bill 62 would repeal a long-standing law that forbids public school teachers from wearing religious clothing or accessories. See the Omaha World-Herald for more.
And in Indiana, a bill that would bar public schools from discriminating against religious expression in homework, artwork, and other assignments, passed the Education Committee 10-2. Detractors argue the bill is unnecessary because these protections already exist in law, and this bill would create confusion and perhaps unnecessary litigation. The Indianapolis Star has more.
Stay tuned as I follow these and other legislative initiatives around the country. What have I missed? What’s happening in your neck of the woods?