A Bill protecting religious freedom has been passed by the US state of Michigan’s House of Representatives.
Politicians voted 59 – 50 in favour of the legislation, which limits Government action that “substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion”.
Modelled on an existing federal law introduced 20 years ago, the ‘Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ would allow people to act or refuse to act according to their “sincerely held religious belief”.
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger explained that the Bill was not a “licence to discriminate”.
“People simply want their government to allow them to practice their faith in peace”, he said.
Bolger noted “real world” examples of people who would be protected under the legislation, such as a Christian baker refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
He fought back against opponents who say the Bill gives religious people the right to harm others, describing the criticisms as “disingenuous at best and misleading at worst”.
The Bill must be passed by Michigan’s Senate before it is signed into law by the Governor.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Christian-run business would not have to provide health insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs.
Hobby Lobby – which has over 600 arts and crafts stores across 47 US states – said the decision allows them to continue operating “according to our principles”.
In Northern Ireland, a consultation on introducing a conscience clause in the Province has been launched.
DUP MLA Paul Givan wants to table a Private Member’s Bill to amend equality legislation in light of the Ashers Baking Company case, involving a Christian family facing court for refusing to provide a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.
Givan wrote in the Belfast Newsletter: “My Bill would mean that ‘reasonable accommodation’ would be made in certain tightly defined circumstances.
“This would allow our society to make space for difference that encourages a tolerant society allowing people of faith equality of opportunity to contribute and participate fully in our community.”