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Hutchinson to veto Arkansas RFRA

Well, this surprised me this morning:

Surprising critics and supporters alike, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced today he plans to veto the religious freedom bill passed yesterday by the state legislature. The bill in Arkansas is similar to an Indiana law passed last week, with both diverging in certain respects from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That act was passed in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Arkansas’s most famous political son.

Both bills allow for larger corporations, if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim that a ruling or mandate violates their religious faith, something reserved for individuals or family businesses in other versions of the law. Both allow religious parties to go to court to head off a “likely” state action that they fear will impinge on their beliefs, even if it has not yet happened.

Citing concerns that the language of the Arkansas bill could allow companies to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation, Hutchinson said he realized the bill "wasn't really about religious freedom."

"Clearly this is an effort of a small group of small-minded people to enforce their narrow religious beliefs on society as a whole," Hutchinson said at a press conference at the governor's mansion. "It's exactly the kind of thing that makes people think Republicans are trying to drag the country back to the 19th Century."

"Look, we're the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, men of great vision and talent who worked hard to protect Americans of all stripes. It demeans us to keep passing this kind of divisive, negative legislation that has no purpose other than to express the outrage some religious bigots feel that the world has moved on from their medieval world-view," Hutchinson said.

"I'm a God-fearing Christian, but if I sign this law, I'm no better than those Taliban idiots who really believe the 11th Century was a better time. Giving in to this gay-baiting crap isn't in line with what Jesus taught us, and that it was sent to me during Holy Week just underscores how petty and bigoted some people in the Arkansas legislature really are," Hutchinson said.

"It's time for real leadership in this state so we can get out of 45th place in education, 45th place in poverty, and 48th place in per-capita GDP. It's embarrassing. As governor, I'm not going to stand for this bread-and-circuses nonsense when there's real work to be done," Hutchinson said.

In other news, Britain's University of Leicester will be changing its name to King Richard University, according to the Independent. According to the newspaper, "The proposal will be debated by the university’s senate next month. It is expected to agree to the institution formally being rechristened as King Richard University from September 2016."

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