A new religious freedom bill was passed by an Arkansas House Committee Thursday morning, meaning the bill would go before the full House for a vote, according to THV-11. The bill, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was a second attempt by the House to send such a bill to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson for signing. It would allow business owners to claim that their religious beliefs prevent them from taking certain actions, such as offering their services to gay and lesbian clients.
The bill appeared in the committee Wednesday as a subchapter in two existing bills. Its proponents said the language of the amendment was “consistent with the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] of 1993,” which was signed by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two states have their own versions of the federal religious freedom law, including Indiana, which recently passed an act limiting the government’s ability to compel businesses to serve certain customers. The law was met with swift criticism by those who said it discriminated against gays and lesbians.
Earlier this week, the Arkansas State Senate Judiciary Committee approved its own religious freedom bill. A similar bill passed the state House Tuesday with overwhelming support. Hutchinson had previously indicated he would sign the bill; however, he later asked state lawmakers to alter the bill following the boycott of Indiana over the state’s newly passed religious freedom law.
"I asked that changes be made in the legislation,” said Hutchinson. “I've asked leaders in the General Assembly to recall the bill so that it mirrors the federal religious act."