POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

“Utah’s RFRA”, passes the House and heads to the Governor

Feb 23, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: 8:07 am

The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. Utah's SB 150, similar to the Relig...

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 — Utah’s SB 150, similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the House and awaits the Governor’s signature.

RFRA prohibits the government from imposing substantial burdens on an individual’s or religious organization’s exercise of religion unless it demonstrates a compelling interest and utilizes the least restrictive means.

RFRA is seen as a crucial safeguard for religious liberty. It originated in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which limited protection for religious practices.

SB 150, similar to RFRA, aims to protect people’s right to freely practice their religion without facing significant interference from the government unless there’s a compelling interest.

The bill clearly defines terms and recognizes the importance of religious freedom. It guarantees individuals the ability to seek legal action and recover legal fees if their rights are violated.

The City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) Supreme Court decision challenged applying the federal RFRA to state and local governments, limiting its reach.

In response, many states adopted state-level RFRA laws. With Governor Cox’s signature, SB 150 will become Utah’s version.

Utah lawmakers have previously addressed religious expression through bills like “The Utah Compromise.” This seeks to balance religious freedoms and civil rights, particularly in the context of LGBTQ protections.

A press release from Equality Utah says:

With the addition of language requested by Equality Utah, this bill now re-codifies and reconfirms existing rights and protections for people of faith without repealing any existing protections for LGBTQ people. 

Senator Todd Weiler and Representative Jordan Teuscher worked together. They aimed to ensure the new legislation is inclusive and promotes mutual respect for all communities. Equality Utah says the bill displays the “Utah Way,” welcoming peace amidst differing beliefs.

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“Utah’s RFRA”, passes the House and heads to the Governor