UA Law Professor Breaks Down House Bill 1228

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FAYETTEVILLE — Supporters of House Bill 1228 believe it will allow business owners more freedom to exercise their faith at work.
But University of Arkansas law professor Danielle Weatherby says the bill is clearly targeted toward the LGBT community.

“It’s reminiscent of the Civil Rights era when restaurants refused to serve African American patrons,” Weatherby said.

Weatherby says the bill is similar in many ways to the federal religious freedom laws already on the books, but there are differences in language.

“Some of the definitions are much broader than the federal law. For example, it automatically grants standing to corporations and entities to challenge government regulation,” Weatherby said.

State Senator Bart Hester says Arkansas is behind the times on this issue.

“I think it’s very important to know that Arkansas is the 40th state to have this read in the law so 22 states by statute like we’re doing, about 13 or 14 states have done it through court ruling and big states through constitutional amendment, so 80 percent of the United States will have this bylaw, we’re certainly not leading the curve,” Hester said.

But Weatherby believes this bill could bring trouble if it’s challenged in court, because judges will have to make rulings on a case-by-case basis.

“As we’ve been seeing in these isolated cases throughout the country, that will be litigated and the chances are that a court could allow a business to essentially discriminate under the guise of religious freedom,” Weatherby said.

But Hester says while conflict is unavoidable, religious rights should be protected.

“We can’t legislate in or out someone’s meanness there’s always going to be mean people in America. At the end of the day we have a fundamental right to believe our firmly held religious beliefs,” Hester said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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