Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Signs Altered Religious Liberty Bill

AP Photo/Brian Chilson
AP Photo/Brian Chilson
Little Rock, AR

Despite media uproar over the issue, Arkansas’s Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed into law his own state’s version of the religious liberty bill that is bringing Indiana so much criticism.

The bill reached Hutchinson’s desk on Thursday after he requested some changes in the bill on Wednesday.

“I think it’s sending the right signal, the way this has been resolved, to the world and the country that Arkansas understands the diversity of our culture and workforce but also the importance of balancing that with our sincerely held religious convictions,” Hutchinson said Thursday.

The bill bounced from the House, to the Senate, to the Governor, and back again several times this week as the debate over the efficacy of such laws raged nationwide.

On Tuesday, HB1228 passed the House 67 to 21, but by Wednesday, amid national scrutiny, Gov. Hutchinson asked the legislature to revise the bill saying he wanted the Arkansas bill to more closely resemble the law that President Bill Clinton signed in 1993. After the Governor’s request, the state senate revised the language. Finally, on Thursday, Hutchinson signed the bill into law.

The bill was worded to provide protection for the free practice of religion and gives remedies and penalties for violating or abusing religious protections. An important aspect of the bill holds that in circumstances in which state action “substantially burdens” the exercise of religion, strict attention must be given to the defense of any citizen whose exercise of his religion is “substantially burdened” by that state action.

Like other religious freedom acts in other states across the country, the Arkansas bill seeks to protect religious expression from incursions by the state and has less to do with how citizens interact with each other in the private sector.

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