POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Religious freedom bill advances to the Utah senate

Jan 31, 2024, 11:00 AM

Image of the steps leading to the Utah capitol....

FILE - The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — A committee of Utah lawmakers advanced a religious freedom bill. Should the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ever get repealed, Utah’s bill is meant to provide a safeguard. 

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored the bill. He said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows the challenge of any federal rule that may obstruct religious freedom. 

“Essentially, the statute requires [the] government to satisfy the compelling interest standard, which is the highest standard in constitutional law, whenever law generally burdens a religious exercise,” said Weiler. 

“If they were to repeal the religious freedom protections that are currently in place on the federal level, this would give us at least a backstop on the state level,” said Weiler. 

Modeled after bills passed in other states, Weiler said it is most similar to Arizona’s. 

Next, the full Senate will vote on the bill. 

Concerns over the religious freedom bill 

During a hearing for the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah voiced concern over the bill. The ACLU’s concern was that some might try to use the bill to get away with crimes. 

Weiler said that if the issue isn’t occurring on the federal level, there isn’t a need for concern at the state level. 

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Religious freedom bill advances to the Utah senate