Iowa House of Representatives passes religious freedom bill

Religious freedom restoration act

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(ABC 6 News) – The Iowa legislature passed a bill that looks to expand federal religious protections statewide.

The SF 2095, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), is meant to correct a gap in federal and state law when an individual feels an action by the state infringes on their religious rights.

“It’s not the sort of thing that you’re going to see a lot of change in behavior on because it’s expanding an already existing federal right,” said Iowa State Representative Charley Thomson (R – Floyd County), who voted in support of RFRA.

Opponents of RFRA say it goes beyond religious freedom, allowing people to pick and choose what laws they want to follow.

“It stacks the system, so it puts the thumb on the scale in favor of any sort of religious claimant looking for an exemption to an otherwise generally applicable law,” said Keenan Crow, Director of Policy and Advocacy for One Iowa.

An amendment saying the bill would not protect violations of civil rights, employment rights or child abuse and exploitation was not passed by the legislature.

“Anti-discrimination protections, drug laws, all those kinds of things that don’t necessarily result in someone’s immediate harm, are going to be on the chopping block for religious claimants,” said Crow.

Lawmakers voting in favor of the bill emphasize any religious claim still has to make its way through the court.

“The statute says you have a cause of action, doesn’t mean that you’re going to win. So, all this does is get you to the courthouse door,” said Thomson.

Now the bill has passed through the State Senate and House, it makes its way to the desk of Governor Kim Reynolds, who is expected to sign it into law.

If the bill becomes law, it will make Iowa the 26th state to pass a version of RFRA.

One Iowa is hosting a letter writing event Sunday to urge Governor Reynolds not to enact SF 2095. More information on how to get involved in that campaign can be found here.