An Indiana House committee advanced a religious freedom bill on Monday, which opponents fear will give business owners the right to refuse service based on their beliefs.
The Indianapolis Star reports, that the House Judiciary Committee voted 9-4 to send the the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the full House for consideration.
Proponents of the bill argue that the government shouldn’t coerce religious business owners into violating their faith.
Bill sponsor Republican state Rep. Tim Wesco told the Indianapolis Star that “[w]e need to be protected from the government interfering in our religious exercise.”
The legislation comes after controversies in which florists, bakers and photographers have faced sanction for refusing to service same-sex wedding ceremonies.
According to FOX59, dozens of Indiana constituents testified before committee members, both for and against the legislation. Testimony lasted for roughly four hours, before the bill was put to a vote.
Rev. Dan Gangler, a spokesman for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, told the Indianapolis Star that “[d]iscrimination should not be practiced under the disguise of religious liberty.”
In the bill’s digest the legislation will prohibit “an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.” This gives business owners more protection if summoned to court.
“This bill sends a message to those within the government that, when in doubt, err on the side of religion,” Mike Breen of the Thomas More Society to told WISHTV.