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Battle intensifying over ‘religious freedom’ in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The same grass-roots coalition that fought a gay marriage ban in Indiana last year is now ready to battle this year’s proposed religious freedom bill.

“To many of us, it is a license to discriminate and so we are back,” said Rev. Linda McCrae during a vigil Wednesday night at a downtown church.

Supporters of the proposed religious freedom restoration act say they’re concerned about the government encroaching on their religious freedoms. They also cite a Supreme Court decision last year that they say should be matched at the state level. The high court ruled that family-owned companies, like Hobby Lobby, cannot be forced to cover the cost of contraception for female employees if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

“This is just about protecting religious liberty,” said Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute. “Sometimes you get into situations where if I’m required to do something, it’s really coerced speech or compelled behavior. And that’s not freedom.”

Eighteen other states have similar laws in place.

But critics say the bill would let businesses deny service to people like same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

“I think that in this country, when you become a business owner and you enter into the public square if you will, you’re agreeing to serve everyone,” said McCrae.