American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

[UPDATE: The Indiana Senate voted 39-11 to pass the bill, sending it to the House for consideration.]

The Indiana Senate will vote later today on a bill that would allow organizations that receive state funding to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion if the organization is affiliated with a religion. Senate Bill 127 is aimed at “hospitals, universities, and child-service providers,” according to a report by the Indianapolis Star.

Holdman, R-Markle, said he filed the bill to help Indiana Wesleyan University obtain state workforce training grants. The Attorney General’s office last year determined that the university’s religious lifestyle mandate violated state contracting requirements against employment discrimination, he said.

“My concern is that we have a large number of religious organizations providing services to the state of Indiana,” he said.

But opponents say organizations seeking public money should be required to treat all members of the public equally.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Times’ Arkansas Blog reports that a RFRA-like bill has been filed in that state. The Conscience Protection Act would prohibit government action that burdens a person’s exercise of religion unless it is necessary to further a compelling state interest. Notably, the Arkansas proposal seems to apply to any burden. Most state RFRAs and the federal law provide such protection only to “substantial burdens.” [UPDATE: 2/11 – The House adopted an amendment replacing “burdens” with “substantially burdens.”]

The Baptist Joint Committee has been critical in the past of RFRA proposals that lack the key “substantial burden” language.