Written by Don Byrd
Over the last week, a number of state legislatures have added religious liberty measures to their list of bills as new sessions have gotten under way. Here is a rundown of a few of the measures that caught my eye:
- Colorado: House Bill 1013 was defeated in committee following a 6-3 vote. Named the Colorado Freedom of Conscience Protection Act is essentially a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), though with some important changes. The bill says “no state action may burden a person’s exercise of religion . . . unless it is . . . essential to further a compelling government interest; and, the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest. According to the Denver Post, the defeat marks the third straight year the effort has been defeated in committee.
- Wyoming: House Bill 153 was withdrawn by sponsors. The measure, which is similar to the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), says that the “government of this state shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that the person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (i) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one (1) man and one (1) woman; or (ii) That “man” and “woman” mean an individual’s biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.”
- Virginia: House Bill 2025 was passed by the House General Laws Committee. The bill states that “No person shall be: 1. Required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage; or 2. Subject to any penalty, any civil liability, or any other action by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, solely on account of such person’s belief, speech, or action in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” The measure is identical to legislation vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe last year. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill, which is headed to the full House, is likely to be vetoed again if it passes the General Assembly.
- Kentucky: House Bill 128 would authorize schools across the state to offer elective social studies courses on the Bible. The purpose of such a course, according to the legislation filed earlier this month, is to (a) teach students “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; and (b) Familiarize students with…contents…history…style and structure…and influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or New Testament.” The Courier-Journal notes that the bill further requires “all school districts …to maintain ‘religious neutrality’ and accommodate ‘diverse religious views.'”
Has other legislation been introduced in your state related to religious freedom? Drop me a line by e-mail (don.byrd – at – comcast.net) or over Twitter (@BJCBlog) and let me know. I want to know what is happening on the ground in our state when it comes to church-state issues.