RFRA Passes House, Heads to Governor's Desk

Mar 24, 2015

The Indiana House overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Monday. Gov. Mike Pence says he will sign the bill into law.
Credit Andrew Downs / For WBOI News

The Indiana House Monday approved a bill that supporters call a shield protecting people of faith.  But opponents believe the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, commonly known as RFRA, a license to discriminate.

RFRA creates a judicial test for Indiana courts that ensures a government can only restrict religious practices if it has a compelling reason and does so in the least restrictive way. 

Supporters, such as Inglefield Republican Representative Tom Washburne, say the bill helps ensure Hoosiers live in harmony with each other.

“It’s important that we allow our citizens who hold religious beliefs – and maybe even those that we would be appalled by – to be able to express those,” Washburne said.

But opponents such as House Minority Leader Scott Pelath say the impetus for the bill – that people of faith are being persecuted – is a made-up issue.

“It’s an issue made up for the purpose of being able to go in front of a few Indiana citizens and thump your chest that you stood up for certain social causes,” Pelath said.

Pelath adds the real fear should be that RFRA will be used to discriminate against some Hoosiers, particularly those in the LGBT community. 

The bill passed 63-to-31 mostly along party lines, with five Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.