« Ind. Courts - Complying with the revisions to Administrative Rule 9 - a Q & A | Main | Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court reinstates July 30th COA ruling in insurance coverage case »

Monday, February 09, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Religious freedom restoration" now set for hearing

Updating this ILB post from Feb. 2nd, the hearing is set for today after the Senate adjourns in the Senate Chamber. You will be able to watch it at the Senate Chamber video link.

A story by Tony Cook in today's Indianapolis Star. The story oddly mentions, and selectively quotes from, but does not provide access to, a letter:

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Brent Steele, a group of 16 legal scholars from across the country — including law professors from Indiana and Notre Dame universities — write that "it is not at all clear that the proposed Indiana RFRA would lead courts to recognize such an exemption."

In fact, only one such case has arisen in states that already have a religious freedom law. In that case, a Christian wedding photographer was sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in New Mexico. Although that state has a religious freedom law, the photographer lost.

"Courts generally believe that anti-discrimination laws serve compelling governmental interests, and nothing in the proposed legislation would change that," they wrote.

The letter also is not a part of the Judiciary Committee packet for today's hearing.

More from the story:

"The thought of potentially being exempt from all laws or ordinances is extreme," said David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. "If someone is going to operate in the public square, they have a certain obligation to do so equitably."

Ken Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, summed up the feelings of many opponents this way: "You never want to have a bill that licenses discrimination, which is what this does."

But legal experts take issue with those claims, too.

"Opponents of the legislation may make unsupported claims about the extreme results that it would produce, but they have no examples of judicial decisions actually reaching such results," the group of 16 law professors wrote.

Daniel Conkle, a law professor at Indiana University who specializes in religion, was one of the letter's authors.

"There's been exaggeration on both sides about what this law would do in particular settings," he said.

Richard Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and also an author of the letter, said it is "unfortunate that the facts about how religious-accommodations laws actually work, and what they actually do, are too often buried by inaccurate criticisms, implausible predictions, and name-calling."

Both professors say the role that judges play in religious freedom laws is being overlooked. Such laws don't say that religious objectors always win.

"Instead," Conkle said, "they tell the courts to apply what amounts to a balancing test, asking whether a law is sufficiently justified by compelling interest."

The LSA's Fiscal Impact report on the bills deals mostly with their impact upon the Office of the Attorney General, showing the amount of damages paid as a result of all tort claims submitted and tort claim lawsuits filed against the state and by plaintiffs in tort and civil rights litigation between CY 2010 and CY 2014.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 9, 2015 09:33 AM
Posted to Indiana Government