Iowa Lawmakers Make Progress On Religious Freedom Bill

A bill aimed at preventing religious discrimination in Iowa was advanced by an Iowa House subcommittee on Tuesday, despite objections from some who expressed concerns about its potential impact on business.

Iowans now have the opportunity to file a claim in Iowa’s court system if they feel that their right to practice their religion has been infringed upon by the government. House Study Bill 614 addresses this issue and provides a platform for individuals to seek justice.

According to Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, the bill closely resembles the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Business leaders expressed concerns about the potential negative impact of the bill on the state’s economy.

“This bill would grant Iowa business owners the authority to refuse services or accommodation to individuals based on factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected classes.” “This bill would have a negative impact on the Iowa Civil Rights Act,” stated Tim Coonan, representing Principal Financial Group, a company that has a workforce of 6,000 individuals in Iowa. North Carolina faced significant economic consequences, with Forbes estimating a staggering $630 million in damages. These repercussions were felt just six months after the implementation of a controversial bill, which resulted in job losses and the cancellation of sporting events.

Holt dismissed any notion of an impact on the economy.

“I believe that Iowans should have the freedom to live and work in accordance with their faith, without the government imposing any form of punishment,” expressed Holt. “This legislation ensures that all individuals receive a just opportunity in court when their fundamental liberties are encroached upon by the government.” Those against this legislation can only provide speculative scenarios.

According to Rep. Lindsay James, a Democrat from Dubuque, the bill is more focused on politics rather than religious freedom.

“Religious freedom is of great importance to me,” James expressed. “The bill before us bears little resemblance to the original purpose of the federal RFRA.” What this bill does is utilize religious beliefs as a means to justify discrimination. Iowa is not a welcoming place for our workers and businesses.

The bill has been forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee.