Senate panel taking up Indiana religious freedom bill

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – An Indiana Senate committee is taking up broadly worded proposals backed by conservative lawmakers that would give state residents and businesses expansive religious freedom protections.

One of the Republican-sponsored proposals would prohibit any state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs and extends the definition of a “person” to include religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long says he believes the bills would protect people from government intrusion in religious matters.

Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane (LAN’-in) says such laws are meant to appease the Republican right wing and worries they would open the door for discrimination by businesses, such as refusing dealings with gay couples.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.