CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Late night lawmaking in the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday produced a religious freedom bill that substantially changed the bill passed by the House of Delegates.
The Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) has caused an uproar, with backers that say the legislature should codify religious freedom so that activist judges have a narrower interpretation of the law and critics that say the bill is a license to discriminate against anyone, but particularly homosexuals and transgendered people. The most often used examples are whether a baker should be forced to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple or a minister or priest should be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony if they have “sincerely held religious beliefs” that homosexuality is a sin.
About one-third of the states with RFRAs have enacted their laws since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, but most states did that following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the federal RFRA did not apply to states.
Both versions of HB4012 create a test for the courts to determine if a person’s religious freedom is burdened by an action of the government, including the person’s sincerely held religious belief, whether the government has a compelling interest in overriding that belief and what the least restrictive measure would be for the person to comply with the law.
The Senate bill, however, differs from the original version…