Pennsylvania’s version of ‘religious freedom law’ has stark difference from Indiana law

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Indiana certainly doesn’t stand alone with its religious freedom law. 19 other states have religious freedom laws on the books. The Pennsylvania legislature passed a version of that same law 13 years ago.

Pennsylvania’s religious freedom act passed the state legislature in 2002 by a wide margin. Governor Mark Schweiker signed the bill into law.

“It was a bipartisan bill it was passed and signed into law. And I think it’s working very well to balance the interests of our citizens,” said Rep. Stephen Bloom.

Republican representative Stephen Bloom says Pennsylvania’s law is a necessity.

“It’s one of those things – it’s out there it’s part of the legal landscape and citizens are entitled to rely on knowing its out there but it’s not a thing that comes up every day,” said Rep. Bloom.

The law, which is similar to Indiana’s controversial law, has a stark difference. PA’s religious freedom act protects individuals, churches, and tax-exempt organizations. Meaning, it’s illegal for Pennsylvania businesses to deny service to someone based on their religious beliefs. That’s not clear under Indiana’s law. And, opponents of Indiana’s law are worried about discrimination.

For state representative Gordon Denlinger wanted to expand the state’s law last year. But, dropped the idea after it stirred up controversy. Governor Tom Wolf was asked Tuesday about the state’s religious freedom act.

“I want to make sure that we’re not discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation,” said Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf says he would never sign off on a law that mirror’s Indiana’s law.

“We were founded by William Penn on the basis of religious freedom. Freedom of consciousness, of openness – the ship he came to Pennsylvania in was the welcome and I think I’m committed to doing what I can to support that sense of welcome for Pennsylvania. I think what Indiana did was just the opposite,” said Gov. Wolf.

One of the reasons the legislature stated for passing this law in 2002 was because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that a federal law did not apply to states.