Arkansas’ RFRA Tennis Match
You’ve probably heard about Governor Asa Hutchinson’s rebuttal to the Arkansas House & Senate GOP caucuses, who vowed last week, after the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal, to pursue legislation to protect individuals’ and churches’ First Amendment religious freedoms:
In response to the statements issued today by the House and Senate Republican Caucuses, I am grateful for their continued efforts to assure the religious freedom protection of pastors, churches and religious institutions….The ability of pastors, churches, and private individuals to follow their own convictions on marriage is protected under the First Amendment and has not been affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling….I will continue to determine what legislative action is needed to address the myriad of legal issues that will result from the ruling and also what legislation is needed to protect the churches, pastors and religious institutions who cannot follow the dictates of the Court.
The continual back-and-forth on this issue by the conservative side of state government is about to give us whiplash. These are the same GOP caucuses that rolled over last spring to overwhelmingly vote for the limp version of RFRA our state now has in place — after working with Hutchinson for weeks on a much stronger version of that law, which was quickly abandoned as Hutchinson folded when confronted with liberal social blackmail/backlash and his son’s public opinion on the matter.
Now — after the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling — we have both caucuses and the Governor working this hard to convince us how supportive they are of protecting religious freedom in our state? Reminds us of a tennis match — back and forth — except we’re talking about serious policy matters here with extreme, far-reaching possibilities (some might say eventualities).
The GOP makes platform statements and campaigns on religious freedom but, once elected, seems to then abandon social issues like gay marriage while the Progressive political agenda in our state (see SCOTUS Gay Marriage Not Enough) will continue the unwanted focus on these social issues.
We can only keep watching to see if state government strengthens our weak state RFRA — will the GOP caucuses follow through with their vows? And, will Arkansas’ GOP Governor be aggressive about protecting our fundamental constitutional right to religious freedom?
Unfortunately, last spring’s legislative fiasco over RFRA doesn’t give us much reason to think so.
We’ll keep watching.