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House Attempt To Amend ‘Religious Freedom’ Measure Fails

Brandon Smith

House Republicans rejected several attempts by Democrats on Thursday to change the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The measure says a government cannot encroach on a Hoosier’s religious beliefs unless it has a compelling interest to do so.

One of the most common fears about the measure is that it will sanction discrimination, particularly against the LGBT community. Some worry the controversial measure will allow, for instance, caterers to refuse to work a fundraiser for an abortion clinic, or photographers to refuse to participate in a same sex wedding.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, proposed an amendment that would have put broad language in the bill specifically saying that preventing discrimination is a compelling government interest.

“You pass this bill without this amendment, you’re sending a message that our local ordinances that protect people from the LGBT community, those ordinances are at risk,” DeLaney says.

But RFRA sponsor Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, says DeLaney’s fears are unfounded.

“In the application of RFRA at the federal level and on the state level, the courts actually have held that preventing discrimination is a compelling government interest,” Wesco says.

The amendment was defeated 60-31 mostly along party lines, with just three Republicans breaking ranks to support it.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.