House Committee Tweaks, Passes Religious Freedom Bill

Feb 3, 2016

In the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning, members took up House Bill 4012, the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In its introduced version, this bill would ensure that, in all cases where state action substantially burdens the practice of a person’s religion, judges would be directed to apply strict scrutiny  in court procedures. The bill also provides a claim or defense to the person who felt they were wronged.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee took up a committee substitute of the bill that proposed some changes.

“The committee substitute basically intends to...put into law, the test that courts would apply in determining whether or not a person’s interest has been substantially burdened by an action of the state government," noted House Judiciary Chairman, Delegate John Shott of Mercer County, "some agency of the state government, and it’s sort of a balancing test...the court has to weigh various factors in order to determine whether the action of the state agency or the state government is appropriate, or whether it violates the person’s rights under our state constitution."

Those in opposition to this bill feel it would create a license to discriminate.

However, supporters say by having a standard or a system in place for court’s to follow; it would determine whether a claim stemmed from a sincere religious belief or not.

After hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 16 to 9. It now moves to the House floor for its consideration.