Arkansas passes religious freedom law

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Arkansas has closely followed Indiana in passing its own “Religious Freedom Restoration” bill.

The bill was passed by lawmakers yesterday, and now goes before Governor Asa Hutchinson – who said last week he supports it. Even if he declines to sign it, he is unlikely to veto it, meaning it will become law by default.

It is similar to Indiana’s new law – signed in by Governor Mike Pence last week – which allows organisations, such as businesses and churches, to discriminate against people if they have a religious objection. It is feared it will increase discrimination against LGBT people, and hurt business in the state.

Retailer Walmart, who are based on Arkansas and are the worlds biggest private employer, have condemned the new bill.

They said in a statement: “Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers, and communities we serve. It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual.

“Today’s passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For those reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation”.

Yesterday, horror author Stephen King tweeted some choice words about Indiana’s bill. 

Indiana’s Governenor Mike Pence yesterday branded opponents of the bill “intolerant“, and said that it didn’t discriminate, but he would “fix” it.