Indiana considers religious liberty law

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Christian Examiner) -- Earlier this month Michigan's State Senate stalled over a state bill that would have protected residents and businesses by allowing them to seek exemptions from government regulations that interefered with the exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs. Indiana lawmakers will consider similar legislation when its general assembly convenes January 6.

The bill, authored by State Sen. Scott Schneider, a Republican representing Indianapolis, was modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 signed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. "This is a bill to protect freedom and protect religious liberty," Schneider said. Though the law's final draft is not yet complete Schneider claimed it would fill any gaps in the state's "religious liberty framework."

Since the U.S. Supreme Court found the law did not apply to state-level statutes, religious liberty bills are popping up in statehouses nationwide. According to the Indianapolis Star, at least 19 states have passed some form of the federal law as a result of the recent series of federal court rulings to legalize gay marriage.

Opponents of the Indiana law claim allowing it to pass would encourage discrimination against gays because small business owners could refuse services based on the owner's religious beliefs.

Among the groups lobbying for the measure to pass is the American Family Association of Indiana. AFAI Director Micah Clark said, "The freedom of conscience bill is really about limiting government's ability to squelch freedom of religion, conscience or speech."

The Indianapolis Star reported the state's house and senate hold a Republican super-majority which could could help the bill pass since supporters largely include religious conservatives represented by the that majority.

The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month that although the Michigan law stonewalled in the State Senate because it was not included on the agenda for the last session of 2014, it can be introduced next year.