State RFRA bill tracker

States map 2015 for blog

Updated by BJC Blogger Don Byrd

Welcome to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty’s page tracking Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills. Legislation included in this tracking page would either add or amend a state law modeled, to varying degrees, after the federal RFRA law (see information below).

Please use the links below to quickly scroll down to the section of this page related to a certain state.

States considering RFRA bills in 2016: CO  GA  HI  IA  MI  NC  WV
States considering RFRA amendments in 2016: FL  IN  KY  MS  NM  OK  SC  TN
States with RFRA laws enacted through 2016AL  AZ  AR  CT  FL  ID  IL  IN  KS  KY  LA  MO  MS  NM  OK  PA  RI  SC  TN  TX  VA

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was enacted in 1993. It provides that the federal government may substantially burden a person’s religious exercise only if it furthers a compelling government interest in a narrowly tailored manner.  In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal RFRA as applied to state governments in City of Boerne v. Flores, leaving RFRA to apply only to the federal government. (See the BJC’s RFRA resource page for more background).

Twenty-one (21) individual states, however, have passed a version of RFRA or amended their constitutions to require similar protection for the exercise of religion on the state and local government level. (Additionally, courts in 14 states have ruled that their state’s constitution provides a similar level of protection.*) Several additional state legislatures are in the process of considering bills that would establish or amend a state RFRA. The State RFRA Bill Tracker below monitors the current status and details of proposed state RFRAs and RFRA amendments. (Also see the 2015 State RFRA Bill Archive for last year’s developments).

This page contains several hyperlinks to take you to the correct section.

Section I monitors states with new RFRA bills currently filed.

Section II covers states considering RFRA amendments.

Section III lists the states with RFRA laws currently enacted, including links to the relevant RFRA statute.

This tracker will monitor not only the progress of each bill, but also key language at the core of each proposal. In the February 2015 Report from the Capital, BJC Executive Director Brent Walker explained the importance of paying close attention to the language of any state RFRA proposal — especially because the model language of the federal RFRA “embodies a delicately balanced formula” to address deep conflicts over religious accommodation.

I will need your help to keep this page up-to-date as new developments take place! If you know of proposals or updates I have missed, send me a note through Twitter (@BJCblog) or email me (don.byrd – at – comcast.net).

Section I. State Legislatures considering RFRA bills:

1. Colorado – Introduced in the House

Read the Bill: HB 16-1180

Latest Actions:
3/16/2016 – Postponed indefinitely in committee
2/2/2016 – Introduced in the State House, referred to State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee

Key Language: “No state action may burden a person’s exercise of religions, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to a person’s exercise of religion is: (a) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (b) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Notes: 1) The proposed RFRA in Colorado requires only a “burden” on a person’s religious exercise to trigger this high level of scrutiny, instead of the “substantial burden” required in the federal RFRA and most other state RFRA laws. The BJC has previously warned against lowering the bar on RFRA claims in this way. 2) The definition of burden required by the law is sweeping. It covers “criminal, civil, or administrative penalties” as well as exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities. 3) The definition of “person” is likewise expansive, covering all corporations, partnerships, etc.

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2. Georgia – Passed in the Senate; In committee in the House

Read the Bill: House Bill 757 |  Senate Bill 129 | House Bill 218

HB 757

Latest Actions
3/28/2016 – Governor Deal vetoed the bill.
3/16/2016 – Passed by Senate, sent to Governor
3/16/2016 – Passed by House
3/16/2016 – Bill amended in House to add RFRA language

Key Language: “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is: (1) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. . . .Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to: Permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law . . . “

Notes: HB 757 is not a stand-alone RFRA bill. The RFRA section is one of several pertaining to religious exercise. See blog post outlining major sections of the bill.

SB 129

Latest Actions
3/24/2016 – Legislature adjourns without acting on SB 129
4/2/2015 – Legislature adjourns without a vote (bill carries over to 2016)
3/30/2015 – Scheduled committee hearing reportedly canceled
3/26/2015 – Tabled in committee
3/26/2015 – Amended in committee to clarify that anti-discrimination is a compelling government interest
3/11/2015 – Second reading in the House
3/9/2015 –  First reading in the House
3/5/2015 – Passed by State Senate on 37-15 vote
[3/3/2015 – The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the bill was unexpectedly untabled and passed by the Judiciary Committee.] [2/21/2015 – The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the bill has been tabled in committee] 2/18/2015 – Referred to the Judiciary Committee
2/17/2015 – Introduced in the Senate

Key Language: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is: (1) Essential to achieve a compelling governmental interest; and (2) The least restrictive means of achieving that compelling governmental interest.”

HB 218

Latest Actions
4/2/2015 – Legislature adjourns without a vote
2/10/2015 – Second Reading
2/9/2015 – First Reading, referred to House Judiciary Committee

Current Language: “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if government demonstrates that the application of such burden to a person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

[Note: Another version of the bill, HB 29, generated some controversy for an additional provision which reads: “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to: (1) Impair the fundamental right of every parent to control the care and custody of such parent’s minor children, including but not limited to control over education, discipline, religious and moral instruction, health, medical care, welfare, place of habitation, counseling, and psychological and emotional well-being of such minor children as provided for under the laws of this state and of the United States;” That bill was pre-filed but not read by the House. HB 218 does not contain that language.]

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3. Hawaii – In committee in the State House:

Read the bill: HB 1160

Latest Actions:
5/5/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on HB 1160
12/17/2015 – Carried over to 2016 Regular Session
2/2/2015 – Referred to Judiciary Committee
1/29/2015 – Introduced and passed first reading

Current Language: “State action shall not burden any person’s right to exercise religion; provided that a burden shall be permissible if the burden results from a law or rule of general applicability and the burden to the person’s exercise of religion: (1) Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

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4. Iowa – In committee in the State House:

Read the Bill: House File 2032House File 2200 | Senate File 2171

House File 2032

Latest Actions:
4/29/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on HF 2032
1/13/2016 – Introduced and referred to Judiciary Committee

Current Language: “A government entity shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the government entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is essential to further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.”

House File 2200

Latest Actions:
4/29/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on HF 2200
2/8/2016 – Introduced and referred to Judiciary Committee

Current Language: “State action shall not burden a person’s free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a law, ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution, or policy of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise exercise of religion is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”

Notes: 1) Iowa’s House File 2200 requires only a “burden” on a person’s religious exercise to trigger this high level of scrutiny, instead of the “substantial burden” required in the federal RFRA and most other state RFRA laws. The BJC has previously warned against lowering the bar on RFRA claims in this way. 2) The definition of burden required by HF 2200 is sweeping. It covers “criminal, civil, or administrative penalties” as well as exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities. 3) The definition of “person” is likewise expansive, covering all corporations, partnerships, etc.

Senate File 2171

Latest Actions
4/29/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on SF 2171
2/15/2016 – Subcommittee Assigned
2/11/2016 – Introduced and referred to Judiciary Committee

Current Language: “State action shall not burden a person’s free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a law, ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution, or policy of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise exercise of religion is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”

Notes: 1) Iowa’s Senate File 2171 requires only a “burden” on a person’s religious exercise to trigger this high level of scrutiny, instead of the “substantial burden” required in the federal RFRA and most other state RFRA laws. The BJC has previously warned against lowering the bar on RFRA claims in this way. 2) The definition of burden required by SF 2171 is sweeping. It covers “criminal, civil, or administrative penalties” as well as exclusion from government programs or access to government facilities. 3) The definition of “person” is likewise expansive, covering all corporations, partnerships, etc.

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 5. Michigan – In committee in the State Senate:

Read the Bill: Senate Bill 4

Latest Actions:
4/29/2015 – Committee hearing held
4/21/2015 – Governor Snyder vows to veto if the bill is not accompanied by non-discrimination provisions
1/20/2015 – Introduced in Senate and referred to Judiciary Committee

Current Language: “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in that particular instance is both of the following: (a) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest. (b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

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6. North Carolina – In State House

Read the Bill: House Bill 348

Latest Actions:
4/21/2015 – Gov. McCrory reiterates concern about whether there is need for the bill
3/26/2015 – Referred to the House Judiciary Committee
3/24/2015 – Filed in the House

Current Language: (a) “State action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in this particular instance: (1) Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. (b) A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened, or is likely to be burdened, in violation of this Act may assert such violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the State or one of its political subdivisions is a party to the proceeding.”

[Notes: 1) HB 348 lacks the “substantial burden” limitation in the federal RFRA; 2) The bill defines “compelling government interest” as “A governmental interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA does not require the government to cross this “highest magnitude” hurdle to be a compelling interest.]

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7. West Virginia – Passed in House, Rejected in Senate 

Read the Bill: House Bill 4012 | Senate Version (rejected)

Latest Actions:
3/2/2016 – Senate rejects bill on 27-7 vote
3/1/2016 – Senate adopted committee amendments – renaming the bill, limiting availabile relief, carving out nondiscrimination and vaccination laws.
2/11/2016 – House passed bill 72-26; bill moves to the Senate
2/8/2016 – Passed out of committee – substituted version removes definitions of “person” and “substantial burden”
1/26/2016 – Filed in the House; referred to House Judiciary Committee

Current Language: (a) “State action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in this particular instance: (1) Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. (b) A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened, or is likely to be burdened, in violation of this Act may assert such violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the State or one of its political subdivisions is a party to the proceeding.”

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Section II. State Legislatures Considering Bills to Amend RFRA

1. Florida – In committee in the State House

Read the Bill: HB 401

Summary: This bill attempts to provide immunity for health care providers, closely-held corporations, and private adoption agencies from liability for refusing to provide services that are contrary to the religious beliefs, moral convictions or policies of the facility/ownership. add specific protections for health care facilities. It also defines closely-held corporations as a corporation or organization owned by “five or fewer individuals or members of a single family.”

Latest Actions:

3/11/2016 – Bill died in subcommittee
10/30/2015 – Referred to Civil Justice Subcommittee
10/21/2015 – Introduced in the State House

Amendment Language:

“A health care facility . . . is not required to administer, recommend, or deliver a medical treatment or procedure that would be contrary to the religious or moral convictions or policies of the facility or health care provider.”

“A person, closely held organization, religious institution, or business owned or operated by a religious institution is not required to produce, create, or deliver a product or service that would be contrary to the religious or moral convictions or policies of the person, organization, institution, or business.”

“A private child-placing agency . . . is not required to perform, assist in, recommend, consent to, or participate in the placement of a child that would be contrary to the religious or moral convictions or policies of the agency.”

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2. Indiana – In committee in the State Senate

Read the Bill: SB 66

Summary: Indiana enacted a RFRA law in March 2015. SB 66 would repeal that law and replace it with a law establishing “fundamental rights:” the right to worship, the right to free exercise and conscience, the right to freedom of religion,  the right to freedom of thought and speech, the right to freedom of assemblage and petition, and the right to bear arms. SB 66 states that the government may not substantially burden those rights unless it is necessary to further a compelling government interest.

Latest Actions:

1/27/2016 – Bill dies in Committee as the chairman decides “the timing is incorrect”
1/5/2016 – Introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Amendment Language: “A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s fundamental right unless the governmental entity demonstrates that the application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

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3. Kentucky

Read the bill: HB 14 | SB 180

HB 14

Summary: HB 14 amends the Kentucky RFRA law to state that solemnizing a same-sex marriage to which a person has a religious objection amounts to a substantial burden for which there is no compelling government interest.

Latest Actions:
4/15/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on HB 14
1/5/2016 – Introduced in the House, referred to the Judiciary Committee

SB 180

Summary: SB 180 amends Kentucky’s RFRA to establish religious freedom, among others, as a “protected right” which government action may not impede, despite any local ordinance to the contrary. Specifically, the measure protects people who are employed or commissioned by government to provide goods or services that involve protected rights from government penalty in providing or refusing to provide such goods or services unless a compelling government interest requires it.

Latest Actions:
4/15/2016 – Legislature Adjourned without further action on SB 180
3/16/2016 – Sent to House Judiciary Committee
3/15/2016 – Passed by Senate on 22-16 vote (amended by Amendment 1)
2/25/2016 – Passed out of committee
2/22/2016 – Referred to the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee
2/18/2016 – Introduced in the Senate

 

4. Mississippi

Read the bill: SB 2093 | SB 2822

Summary: Senate Bills 2093 and 2822 would amend the state RFRA to add a definition of “person” and a provision to protect “religious leaders” from being required to participate in marital ceremonies they object to on religious grounds.

Latest Actions

2/23/2016 – Bills died in committee
2/8/2016 – Referred to Judiciary Committee

Amendment Language: “[G]overnment shall not substantially burden: . . . A religious leader’s exercise of religion by requiring him to perform or solemnize any marriage inconsistent with a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

5. New Mexico

Read the bill: HB 55

Summary: HB 55 amends both the state RFRA and Human Rights Act. The RFRA changes would replace “government agency” with “person,” meaning the religious freedom protections would be triggered by private as well as governmental restrictions on religious free exercise. It would also specify that requiring a person to provides goods or services when it would conflict with their religious beliefs qualifies as a “discriminatory action” initiating RFRA protections.

Latest Actions:

1/20/2016 – Bill declared dead after Governor declined to add it to the 30-day session agenda
12/17/2015 – Introduced in the House

Amendment Language: “‘discriminatory action’ means an act by a person or a government agency in response to a person’s free exercise of religion to . . . require a person to perform an act or provide or receive a product, good or service where that act conflicts with that person’s sincerely held religious belief”

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6. Oklahoma — SB 440HB 1371 | SB 723

SB 440: Read the bill
Summary: SB 440 would repeal the state’s current RFRA law and replace it with language prohibiting the government from requiring any individual or religious entity to provide commercial or social services, employment or benefits, or to solemnize or recognize marriages if such action would be contrary to their religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation.

Latest Actions:
5/27/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on SB 440
2/3/2015 – Passed Second Reading and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee
2/2/2015 – Passed First Reading in the Senate
1/21/2015 – Introduced in the Senate

Amendment Language: “no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex, gender or sexual orientation: 1. Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges; 2. Provide counseling, adoption, foster care, and other social services; 3. Provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; 4. Solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or 5. Treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.”

HB 1371: Read the Bill
Summary:
This amendment would add a definition of “person” to the state RFRA law to include any corporate entity.

Latest Actions
5/27/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on HB 1371
2/25/2015 – Approved as amended by the House Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee on a 7-3 vote.
2/25/2015 – Amended in committee
2/3/2015 – Referred to the House Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee
2/2/2015 – Introduced in the House

Amendment Language: “‘Person’ means a natural or juridical person or any unincorporated nonprofit or for-profit association;”

SB 723: Read the Bill
Summary: This amendment would change the definition of “substantially burden” and also clarify that a person can assert a state RFRA claim even if the state is not a party, and even if the substantial burden has not yet occurred but is likely to occur.

Latest Actions
5/27/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on SB 723
2/3/2015 – Passed second reading and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee
2/2/2015 – Passed first reading
1/22/2015 – Introduced in the Senate

Amendment Language:” ‘Substantially burden’ means to directly or indirectly constrain, inhibit, curtail or deny the exercise of religion by any person or compel any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion and includes, but is not limited to, withholding benefits, assessing criminal, civil or administrative penalties or excluding from governmental programs or access to governmental facilities.”

[Note: the current Oklahoma RFRA law defines “substantially burden” as to “inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.”]

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7. South Carolina

Read the Bill: Senate Bill 127

Summary: S. Bill 127 would amend the state’s RFRA to specify that free exercise may not be restricted during local government proceedings.

Latest Actions:
6/2/2016 – Legislature adjourned without acting on SB 127
1/13/2015 – Introduced and passed first reading; referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.

Amendment Language: “No locality, municipality, county, or other instrumentality of this State may restrict the free exercise of speech or religion during the course of any of its proceedings in violation of the First Amendment of the United States or Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of South Carolina.”

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8. Tennessee – Failed in House Subcommittee

Read the Bill: House Bill 2735 | Senate Bill 2329

Latest Actions: 
SB 2329
4/22/2016 – Legislature adjourned
1/25/2016 – Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee
1/21/2016 – Introduced in the Senate

HB 2735
3/23/2016 – Failed in Subcommittee
1/27/2016 – Referred to Civil Justice Subcommittee
1/21/2016 – Introduced in the House

Summary: These identical bills would amend the state’s RFRA law by adding a provision to shield religious organizations and its employees (among others) from being required to participate in any wedding ceremony they object to on religious grounds.

Amendment Language: “No minister, clergy member, pastor, religious organization, organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, or individual employed by a religious organization, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”

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Section III. States that have enacted RFRA Laws

1. Alabama – Ala. Const. art. I, § 3.01
2. Arizona – Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 41-1493 to 41-1493.02
3. Arkansas – Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-123-401 to 16-123-407
4. Connecticut – Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-571b
5. Florida – Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 761.01 to 761.05
6. Idaho – Idaho Code Ann. §§ 73-401 to 73-404
7. Illinois – 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 35/1 to 35/99
8. Indiana – Ind. Code § 34-13-9
9. Kansas – Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-5301 to 60-5305
10. Kentucky – Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 446.350
11. Louisiana – La. Rev. Stat. Ann. 13:5231 to 13:5239
12. Missouri – Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 1.302-1.307
13. Mississippi – Miss. Code § 11-61-1
14. New Mexico – N.M. Stat. §§ 28-22-1 to 28-22-5
15. Oklahoma – Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 51, §§251-258
16. Pennsylvania – 71 P.S. § 2401 to 2407
17. Rhode Island – R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 42-80.1-1 to 42-80.1-4
18. South Carolina – S.C. Code Ann. §§ 1-32-10 to 1-32-60
19. Tennessee – Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-407
20. Texas – Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 110.001 to 110.012
21. Virginia – Va. Code Ann. § 57-2.02

*Additionally, Professor Douglas Laycock compiled in this journal article a list of 14 states where courts have determined the state constitution provides a similar level of protection:  Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachussetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin. See his footnote 22 for citations. Indiana, Kansas, and Mississippi have enacted RFRA statutes.

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This is the new permanent home of the state RFRA tracker. Bookmark this page and come back to see new developments! And follow me on Twitter (@BJCblog) for info regarding updates, and for headlines on other church-state news. Send me a note if I have missed any important developments in your state!