What Indiana, Arkansas religious freedom laws really mean

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence spoke during a press conference March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, Indiana. He spoke about the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act which has been condemned by business leaders and Democrats.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

In the midst of national criticism on a religious freedom bill in Indiana, Arkansas passed a similar law:

Both states' laws allow for larger corporations, if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim that a ruling or mandate violates their religious faith, something reserved for individuals or family businesses in other versions of the law. Both allow religious parties to go to court to head off a "likely" state action that they fear will impinge on their beliefs, even if it has not yet happened. Continue reading the main story

The Arkansas act contains another difference in wording, several legal experts said, that could make it harder for the government to override a claim of religious exemption. The state, according to the Arkansas bill, must show that a law or requirement that someone is challenging is "essential" to the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, a word that is absent from the federal law and those in other states, including Indiana.

On MPR News with Kerri Miller, we discussed what these religious freedom laws say, how they are legally interpreted and what it means in our political landscape.

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