The Daily Banter

Good News: the Arkansas Religious Freedom Bill is Dead. Bad News: a Worse Bill in North Carolina is on the Way.

Bob Cesca
Written by Bob Cesca

There was good news from Arkansas late Wednesday as the House and Senate passed two different religious freedom bills that would replace the now notorious HB1228, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) wisely sent back to the legislature earlier in the day.

This pair of older bills were stripped of their original language and replaced with text similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The federal law is generally agreed-upon as disallowing any form of discrimination and only allows action against the government. The old Arkansas bill and the infamous Indiana RFRA not only consider corporations of all sizes as having First Amendment rights, but those bills also allow those "persons" to use the RFRA as a defense against other people, not just the government. The new Arkansas language ostensibly doesn't contain any such provisions. Ostensibly.

What'll happen from here is that HB1228 will be replaced with one of the two new bills. A veto of HB1228 won't be required since Arkansas code allows the governor to simply "refer" a bill back to the legislature with corrections. Consequently, there probably not much of a concern that HB1228 will automatically become law after five days, not unlike a controversial discrimination-related law that passed earlier in the year that Hutchinson refused to sign but which became law after five days anyway.

Still, it's difficult to say whether the new legislation won't be amended with appropriate bits and pieces from the old bill. So, probably "cautiously optimistic" is correct posture for now.

Isn't parliamentary wonkery fun?

Meanwhile, another RFRA was introduced in the North Carolina legislature that, again, is almost exactly like the Indiana RFRA and the referred-back Arkansas bill.

But this one is a lot worse. In the MEMBERS ONLY section of The Daily Banter on Wednesday, we discussed one of the ways in which the Indiana and Arkansas laws differed from the federal RFRA. One of the differences is... CONTINUE READING