Louisiana's Bobby Jindal issues order against religious discrimination

by Kimberly Pennington, National Correspondent |
Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. | REUTERS/Jim Young

BATON ROGUE (Christian Examiner) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order May 19 which prevents the state from "discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman," according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Politico called it a "religious-freedom order."

Jindal's measure, which went into effect immediately and will last 60 days past the end of the next legislative session, was issued hours after the Louisiana House Civil Law and Procedure Committee voted bi-partisan 10-2 to return HB707, the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act, to the calendar.

We don't support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty. These two values can be upheld at the same time.

Expressing disappointment at the action that effectively defeated the measure for the current legislative session, Jindal moved quickly to enact his executive order designed to accomplish the intent of HB707.

Jindal's order directs all state departments, commissions, boards, agencies, and political subdivisions to define "person" as an individual, a non-profit, or a for-profit corporation.

It also orders these same entities to apply the restrictions placed on state government interference with religious freedom by the 2010 Louisiana Preservation of Religious Freedom Act in a manner which includes taking no adverse action against people who act upon a religious belief that marriage is or should be the union of one man and one woman.

Adverse action includes revocation of tax exempt status; disallowing state tax deductions for charitable contributions; denying state grants, contracts, licensure, certification, accreditation, or employment to such individuals; and denying, revoking, or suspending accreditation, licensing, or certification to anyone in need of such to comply with other Louisiana laws.

The executive order does not force local or parish governments to comply with its mandates.

While some opponents of HB707 interpret Jindal's action as a discriminatory political stunt that will hurt Louisiana's economy, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) sees it as a sign of not "throwing in the towel."

According to a Politico report, Jindal himself does not see his action as discriminatory.

"We don't support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty. These two values can be upheld at the same time," he said.

Jindal's executive order based the broad definition of "person" on the June 2014 United States Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., in which the Court ruled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibited the federal government from requiring a "person" to act contrary to a sincerely held religious belief and the definition of "person" included individuals, non-profit, and for-profit corporations.

He also cited a 1974 act in which the State of Louisiana officially adopted the free exercise clause of the First Amendment into the state constitution and Article I, Section 1 of the Louisiana Constitution which states that "government originates with the people and is founded on their will alone."