Yesterday, retail giant Walmart issued a statement against HB1228, the Conscience Protection Act by Rep. Ballinger and Sen. Hester. A Walmart spokesman said the legislation runs counter to Walmart’s “core basic belief of respect for the individual” and that the legislation “sends the wrong message about Arkansas.”
This morning the bill narrowly failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it can be brought back up for another vote. It is essential that your senator hears from you. Your senator must know you support this bill. Please call your Arkansas Senator at (501) 682-2902, and ask him or her to support House Bill 1228, the Conscience Protection Act by Rep. Ballinger and Sen. Hester.
You can also call Governor Hutchinson’s office at (501) 682-2345, and ask him to support the bill.
Our lawmakers are hearing a lot of misinformation about this bill. Besides Walmart, the Association of Counties, the Municipal League, and others have made incorrect assertions about what the Conscience Protection Act does.
We want to set the record straight. Here are three facts about the bill:
Fact #1: HB1228 is almost identical to religious freedom legislation passed in 20 states. Alabamans even went so far as to write the language into their state constitution in 1998. Additionally, most states that do not have a religious freedom protection law on the books have a court ruling of some sort protecting religious freedom. Arkansas is one of only 11 states without a state law or court ruling affirming the free exercise of religion.
Fact #2: Laws like HB1228 trigger very few lawsuits. From 1993 to 2014, 20 states passed laws similar to HB1228. According to attorneys we have spoken with, only 146 lawsuits have been filed citing these religious freedom laws, nationwide. That’s 146 cases, nationwide, over the course of 22 years. Of those cases, the vast majority of the religious freedom claims were dismissed in court. Religious freedom laws have not led to a flood of litigation anywhere else. There is no reason to think Arkansas will be any different.
Fact #3: This bill is not a “response” to the Fayetteville ordinance repealed last December. Opponents of religious freedom have tried to frame HB1228 as a reaction to Fayetteville’s city ordinance giving special rights to people based on sexual-orientation and gender-identity. While that ordinance threatened religious liberty, the truth is this is the third time the Arkansas Legislature has weighed legislation like the Conscience Protection Act. The first was in 2011, and the second was in 2013. Both times, the bill was narrowly defeated by Democratic lawmakers. Moreover, the first state religious freedom law like HB1228 was passed in 1993—long before any states chose to recognize same-sex marriage. These laws are simply about upholding the free exercise of religion.
Conclusion: Most states have a law or court ruling on the books protecting religious freedom the way the Conscience Protection Act does. These laws have been in place for more than 20 years. In that time, there has been no flood of litigation. Businesses such as Walmart and others are thriving in those states.
If someone really believes in respect for the individual, then they ought to respect an individual’s right to religious freedom.
Please call your Arkansas Senator at (501) 682-2902, and leave a message asking him or her to support the Conscience Protection Act, House Bill 1228 by Rep. Ballinger and Sen. Hester.
You can also call the governor’s office at (501) 682-2345 and encourage Governor Hutchinson to stand with Arkansans who support religious freedom.
If you would like to email your senator as well, you can find his or her email address below:
Sen. Bruce Maloch (Democrat), State Senate District 12 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. David Sanders (Republican), State Senate District 15 – email@example.com
Sen. Scott Flippo (Republican), State Senate District 17 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (Republican), State Senate District 19 – email@example.com
Sen. Blake Johnson (Republican), State Senate District 20 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. John Cooper (Republican), State Senate District 21 – email@example.com
Sen. Keith Ingram (Democrat), State Senate District 24 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Bobby Pierce (Democrat), State Senate District 27 – email@example.com
Sen. Jonathan Dismang (Republican), State Senate District 28 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Linda Chesterfield (Democrat), State Senate District 30 – email@example.com
Sen. Joyce Elliott (Democrat), State Senate District 31 – firstname.lastname@example.org