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Arizona House passes bill protecting religious liberty

Thursday, May 16, 2013

PHOENIX — An effort to allow people to sue over potential violations of religious liberty cleared the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday despite opposition from civil liberties groups who warn the measure will inspire waves of lawsuits over alleged First Amendment violations.

The GOP-led House voted 32-24 along party lines to move the bill forward after little debate. Senate Bill 1178 now goes to the Senate for passage.

The proposed law would allow people to sue over an “impending violation” of religious liberty, as opposed to waiting until after the attack has occurred. It protects the practice or observance of all religions, including actions motivated by religious beliefs, against state and local laws or policies.

Civil liberties groups have rallied against the bill, saying it would be a nightmare for businesses because it doesn’t specify what constitutes a potential violation of religious liberty.

Arizona law and the U.S. Constitution already protect the free exercise of religion, but proponents say stricter language is needed. For example, they claim the bill will expand protections for prayer events hosted by government officials, as well as for religious leaders who don’t recognize gay couples.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, the bill’s sponsor, initially introduced a broader bill that would have allowed people to sue governments over attacks on religious freedom, regardless if the government was involved in the claim.

The initial measure also stipulated that governments could only limit religious liberties to further an “interest of the highest magnitude.” Proponents said that version of the bill would have been one of the strongest religious freedom laws in the nation.

The bill was recently tempered to win over some critics who said it was too expansive. Yarbrough said Wednesday that he would have preferred if the bill had not been changed, but he supports the amended legislation and wants to see it advance in the Senate.

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18 more reader comments:

  1. i hope that it does not get final approval

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:35pm
  2. The totally bat shit crazy state

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:35pm
  3. So, Now you can use religion to exempt yourself from any law you like?

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:36pm
  4. Arizona it is Texas Junior of course is gonna get approved

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:37pm
  5. *Headdesk*…another good reason not to go to or live in Arizona.

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:37pm
  6. This is going to bring this country closer to anarchy, like my dad said.

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:38pm
  7. how totally stupid. leave it up to republicans to do something stupid like this

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:43pm
  8. a$$ wipes

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:43pm
  9. some how, that doesn’t sound US CONSTITUTIONAL to me….this is just another way for the republican BIBLE THUMPING BIGOTS to get in the way of PROGRESS and FULL EQUALITY.

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:45pm
  10. It’s also said the Constitution that you can’t violate states rights either.. Fuck ARIZONA They will pull your over if you illegal! It’s a red state let them have it over time Minorities will take over the state and it will become a blue state just like California did… Republicans don’t know how to be progressive obviously

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:48pm
  11. BOYCOTT ARIZONA STATE
    and ALL ARIZONA BUSINESS’

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:49pm
  12. How about all progressive move to arizona, lets turn red to blue

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:52pm
  13. Besides not all of az red , Tucson area blue

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:53pm
  14. Arizona, free unless you are gay or hispanic.

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:59pm
  15. Another waste of our blue tax dollars you know this is going to end up in court!

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:00pm
  16. Hence why my partner and I are moving! We leave on Saturday! Goodbye bigot lawmakers in AZ. I refuse to pay taxes in a state that cannot be inclusive of all people! CYA

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:25pm
  17. homosexuality: mother nature’s birth control since f+r+a+n+c+e became a word.

    Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:28pm
  18. Stephen Yarbrough, the bill’s sponsor, is my state senator. I will do whatever I can to make sure this jackass doesnt win re-election.

    Posted on Friday, May 17, 2013 at 2:21am