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Gov. Reynolds signs religious liberty law at TFL dinner

DES MOINES, Iowa – On Tuesday, April 2, The FAMiLY Leader hosted a “Family Champions Dinner” at the Des Moines Heritage Center to honor legislators and individuals who have helped advance pro-family policy in Iowa, and especially the recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as SF 2095.


One of the evening’s honorees, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in turn honored the evening’s guests by signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, into law at the dinner.

Iowa’s new RFRA mirrors a federal law signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that undermined the strength of religious liberty claims in America’s courts. Both laws – the federal and now Iowa’s – strengthen citizens’ ability to live out their faith and convictions of conscience publicly, as the government must apply a “strict scrutiny” standard to its actions, only penalizing a citizen when the government has the clearest of compelling interests.


In other words, RFRA raises the bar for the state to prove it has good reason to restrict an individual’s religious liberty.


“Thirty years ago, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed almost unanimously at the federal level,” Gov. Reynolds said in a statement. “Since then, religious rights have increasingly come under attack. Today, Iowa enacts a law to protect these unalienable rights—just as 26 other states have done—upholding the ideals that are the very foundation of our country.”


The evening included a series of awards The FAMiLY Leader gave to members of the Iowa Legislature, key lobbyists, and members of the public who were instrumental in seeing RFRA passed.


Also honored was Betty Odgaard, an Iowa woman whose exercise of religious liberty made headlines in 2013. Odgaard and her husband ran a business, the Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa, out of a beautiful church building that sometimes served as a wedding venue for the public. But when the Odgaard’s refused to participate in same-sex weddings at their business because of their deeply held convictions about the sacredness of marriage, the State of Iowa sued them, placed a lien on their business and home, and eventually forced the Gortz Haus out of business.


Without RFRA in place in 2013, the Odgaards had little legal recourse against the State’s actions. And even though RFRA doesn’t guarantee the Odgaards would win their case today, the Governor’s signature on the law means the people of Iowa will at least have the opportunity to voice their religious liberty claims in court.


Watch a brief video spotlighting the Odgaard’s story and why passing RFRA in Iowa has been a decade-long battle for The FAMiLY Leader and others:

Iowa’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed the Iowa Legislature on Feb. 29.

"The right of religious freedom is endowed upon us by our creator — not government," Gov. Reynolds said at the time. "Our founders recognized this principle, and today the Iowa House took a step forward to protect it. … Both Republican and Democrat governors have passed similar laws. Now, it’s Iowa’s turn."    


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