Michigan governor to veto proposed RFRA bill

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, sponsored Michigan's RFRA legislation which Gov. Rick Snyder promises to veto. | Sen. Mike Shirkey Facebook

LANSING, Mich. (Christian Examiner) -- Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder released a statement Thursday declaring he intended to veto any Religious Freedom Restoration Act that made it to his desk.

"Given all the events that are happening in Indiana, I thought it would be good to clarify my position," Snyder told the Detroit Free Press. "I would veto RFRA legislation in Michigan if it is a standalone piece of legislation."

Snyder's clarifying remarks followed reports of statements he made earlier in the week at a Detroit Economic Club event. There he told reporters he did not support RFRA legislation that was "independent of looking at Elliott-Larsen and really looking at changing Elliott-Larsen in Michigan to include more protection."

That state law prohibits discrimination on the basis of "religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status" in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.

Critics in a nationwide uproar surrounding RFRA bills in Indiana and Arkansas claimed those laws endorsed discrimination, a battle Snyder evidently sought to circumvent.

Michigan business leaders and political experts reportedly welcome Snyder's move, applauding the governor's strategy but calling it unusual because his agenda typically focuses on economically-driven issues.

"He's never had a social-issue focus during his administration. So that's the side he's coming from here," Tom Shields, a Lansing political consultant told the Detroit Free Press. "It's a preventative move to stop putting Michigan in the cross hairs and avoid the activity you're seeing in Indiana."

The state's conservatives however continue to support implementing an RFRA law. When the House first passed a RFRA bill in December, Michigan Catholic Conference's Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy said "Religious liberty is neither right nor left, liberal or conservative. The free exercise of religion without threat of government interference is paramount and deserves swift consideration from the state Senate."

Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who sponsored Michigan's RFRA legislation, said he will not be deterred by Snyder's promised veto and plans to push the bill to become law

"RFRA does not give anybody a right to discriminate against anybody," Shirkey said. "The only right it infers is the right to defend one's self if sued by government action."

Whether or not Shirkey's RFRA bill makes it to the governor's desk remains to be seen. It now sits with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, (R) told The Detroit News religious freedom legislation was a priority for the Senate.

Michigan's RFRA bill is one of three religious liberty bill's being considered in the Mihcigan Senate. The other bills protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to place children with same-sex couples, and, religiously-affiliated hospitals from being mandated to provide services that go against their faith's beliefs.