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.