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'Super-RFRA' Bill Dies Quickly In Senate Committee

An Indiana lawmaker Wednesday took another pass at rewriting last year’s religious freedom restoration law – and the measure barely got a hearing, let alone a vote.

The bill, authored by Sen. Mike Young’s, R-Indianapolis, would label certain constitutional rights as “fundamental” – right to worship, freedom of religion, free exercise of religion, and the freedoms of speech, thought, assembly and petition.  The measure would require judges to give deference to those rights in a legal dispute.

Young says they don't necessarily do that now.

“But one day, when your rights are taken away, I had a bill that would have protected your rights.”

Committee Chair Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, says Young’s bill has been mischaracterized and because of that, now isn’t the time to act on it.

“Probably next year would be a chance to have a legal discussion on this about protecting our constitutional rights.”

Advocates on both sides of the debate at the Statehouse say they’re not surprised at the fate of the bill.

“I think it’s a step forward.  Obviously it’s not…we didn’t move backwards," says Chris Paulsen, Campaign Manager for Freedom Indiana.

Indiana Family Institute President Curt Smith says he appreciated the effort to promote those constitutional rights.  But he says he thinks Senate leadership killed the bill because they want to ensure focus is on a different measure – one Senate leaders are backing that seeks to balance religious freedom and LGBT rights.

Smith and his group oppose this measure.

“I think the bill is losing ground.  I’m not predicting its defeat or anything, but I think it’s losing ground.”

A Senate committee killed the RFRA rewrite bill early Wednesday as debate on the LGBT rights-religious liberty balance measure advances in a different Senate committee late Wednesday.

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