12 state-level religious liberty victories in 2018
Acton Institute Powerblog

12 state-level religious liberty victories in 2018

Over the past six months there have been 139 bills acted on in states legislatures that deal with religion’s place in the public square.

“What happens at the state level is a predicate for what happens at the federal level,” Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Deseret News. “It’s important to look at trends.”

The Deseret News spent months researching proposed legislation across the nation to try to gain some sense of where this battle is heading, writes Kelsey Dallas. Dallas and her team have put together an incredibly helpful overview of religious liberty legislation that has passed, is pending, or has died in the state legislatures in 2018.

Here are twelve examples from the list of recent religious liberty victories at the state level:

Arizona: HB2563 will require public college and university leaders to adopt a policy on free expression and sanction those who infringe on someone else’s free-speech rights.

Georgia: SB339 instructs public college and university leaders to adopt a free-speech policy and publish an annual report outlining violations.

Georgia: HB922 and SB361 would protect the right of religious expression for students and faculty members in public elementary and secondary schools. They would also allow for religious student groups and activities.

Iowa: SF2154, SF2338 and HF2209 mimic the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They would provide a legal defense for individuals or organizations that feel the state has burdened their free exercise of religion.

Kansas: HB2481 will allow a faith-based, child-placing agency to refuse to assist in the placement of a child if doing so would violate the religious beliefs spelled out in its governing documents.

Louisiana: SB364 will require public college and university leaders to adopt a free-speech policy and publish an annual report on related violations. Additionally, it will prohibit schools from denying benefits to faith-based student groups that are available to other groups.

New York: AB5353 would allow for voluntary religious expression in assignments and classroom discussions in public elementary and secondary schools. It would also protect faith-based student clubs.

Oklahoma: SB1140 will allow a private, child-placing agency to refuse to participate in the placement of a child for foster care or adoption if doing so would violate the agency’s religious or moral convictions.

Oklahoma: SB450 would protect religious expression and faith-based student groups in public elementary and secondary schools.

South Carolina: HB4384 would protect religious activities and expression in public elementary and secondary schools. It would also ensure that faith-based student groups were not treated differently than other student groups.

Virginia: HB344 will require public college and university leaders to adopt and distribute a free-speech policy and publish an annual report outlining violations.

West Virginia: HB3097 and SB93 would ensure there is a compelling state interest behind any policy that burdens a resident’s religious exercise rights. The bills are similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but don’t use that title.

To see the status of all 139 bills, click here.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).