ICC Note: In a rare bright spot for religious liberty in the United States, the Michigan House of Representatives has approved a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law strengthens protections for U.S. citizens related to religious belief and potentially gives employers the right to refuse providing goods or services that oppose their religious convictions. A federal version of the bill was passed in 1993 but only applies at the federal level. The Michigan bill must still be approved by the State Senate and signed into law by the governor.
12/8/2014 United States (Christian News) – The Michigan House of Representatives has approved a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) despite opposition from those who claim that the bill will give license to people of faith to “discriminate.”
HB 5958 cleared the House Judiciary Committee 7-4 on Thursday, and then moved on to the full House, where it also passed 59-50. It now moves to the Senate for consideration, and if passed, will then be sent to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder (R).
The bill essentially mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton, However, as the law only applies on a federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court has urged states to enact their own RFRA to protect citizens.
“The free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and unalienable right secured by Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the proposed statute reads.
It then uses federal legal standards to mandate that laws cannot be used to substantially burden the religious beliefs of inhabitants, unless the law serves a compelling government interest and is only uses the least restrictive means to further that specific interest. The proposal also allows those who believe that a law violates their religious liberty to bring a legal challenge against it, such as did companies like Hobby Lobby.
“I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) declared Thursday to the Judiciary Committee. “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”