Religious Freedom Law Lets AR Ministry Continue Serving Those in Need

Rep. BallingerA Christian outreach in Carroll County is continuing to serve those in need thanks in part to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the Arkansas Legislature passed last year.

The law prevents state government from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling governmental interest at stake.

In this case, A Cup of Love Ministry–which serves food to those in need–was told by the state Department of Health that if it was going to serve soup to the homeless, the soup had to “be prepared in an institutional kitchen and served in the same building.”

Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) who sponsored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette“It was a perfect example of government having too much regulation and not enough reason. For any government to try to shut down a person who’s just trying to feed the homeless, it’s pretty foolish. The Health Department was very willing to work with us.”

The story is reminiscent of a case in Texas from a few years ago: The City of Dallas passed an ordinance effectively preventing several ministries from providing food to the homeless within city limits. In that case, the Texas ministries actually sued the city under Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act; ultimately, the court ruled these ministries could continue feeding the homeless.

Two-thirds of Arkansans Support New Religious Freedom Law

If you support religious freedom in Arkansas, you are not alone. Nearly two out of three likely voters in Arkansas support the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and more than half believe a business-owner (such as a caterer or florist) with religious objections to same-sex marriage “should be allowed to refuse to those services to same-sex couples.”

The findings are the result of a poll commissioned by Talk Business, Hendrix College, and Impact Management Group.

The poll indicates Arkansans strongly support religious liberty; in fact, less than half of Arkansans under 30 expressed that businesses ought to be required to provide “services to same-sex couples.”

What’s striking about the survey are its findings despite its wording. According to the survey’s authors, one key survey question was taken verbatim from a CNN poll conducted last spring. The question reads,

“If a business provides wedding services, such as catering or flowers, should it be allowed to refuse those services to same-sex couples for religious reasons, or be required to provide those services as it would to all other customers?”

The phrases “refuse services to same-sex couples” and “as it would to all other customers” slant the question significantly, missing the point: That this is about the impact of same-sex marriage on religious liberty.

Here is what we mean:

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The Inside Scoop on Arkansas’ New Religious Freedom Law

IMG_6796Many people still do not fully understand Act 975, Arkansas’ new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

What does this law do? Is it different from H.B. 1228, the first religious freedom bill the Arkansas Legislature sent to Governor Hutchinson? Why is this law even necessary?

We have the inside scoop.

Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom have prepared an excellent analysis of Act 975. They compare it with H.B. 1228 and Indiana’s religious freedom law.

You can download ADF’s excellent analysis of the law here.

Here is our analysis of Act 975:

The Inside Scoop on Arkansas’ New Religious Freedom Law

Summary: Act 975 of 2015, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), is a very strong law protecting religious liberty. It includes the same legal balancing test that is in federal RFRA, the RFRAs of 20 other states, and U.S. Supreme Court case-law dating back nearly a century. This law will protect the religious freedom of Arkansans in the same way that the other RFRAs have protected the rights of other Americans. It will protect the right of all Arkansans to live and work according to their faith by ensuring that they have a claim or defense to raise in court if the government tries to force them to violate their faith. (more…)