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UALR’s DiPippa: For Religious Freedom Before He Was Against It

Updated: Apr 13

Intellectual consistency is apparently not a virtue of many opponents of HB 1228, the state’s proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If you haven’t heard about HB 1228 yet, it’s a bill passed in approximately 20 other states that says the government shouldn’t “substantially burden the free exercise of religion without compelling justification.” Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Law last week. Arkansas appears poised to pass this law this week; it already has passed the Senate and made it through the relevant House committee earlier today. Regrettably, opponents of the law have supplied arguments that appear unserious and desperate. At the national level, we have a Department of Labor bureaucrat under President Obama calling Christians “Nazis” for supporting the same law that her boss voted for as State Senator in Illinois. At the state level, we have Dean Emeritus of the Bowen School of Law John DiPippa. In a recent op-ed in Talk Business, he criticized the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. DiPippa said:

Legislation such as HB 1228 does religious liberty a disservice. We can disagree about how best to protect the rights of religious believers, but religious freedom restoration acts will not only cost the taxpayers and our government too much but they will further divide us. That does us no favors at all.
In the end, the most important piece of this bill is not necessarily the lawsuit but rather the sensitization it would bring to government actors who would finally recognize the effect their actions have on religious liberty.

DiPippa went on to say in 2011 that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is “consistent with the Framers’ intent about religious liberty.” But in 2015, this law does religious liberty a “disservice,” according to DiPippa. In four years, protecting religious liberty has apparently become too divisive and costly to consider. You might say DiPippa was for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act before he was against it.

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