Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs state version of Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks at a rally hosted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on November 06, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds endorsed DeSantis' run for president at the event.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks at a rally hosted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on November 06, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds endorsed DeSantis' run for president at the event. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Iowa has become the latest state to enact a measure designed to protect the religious freedom rights of residents. 

Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed SF 2095, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, into law Tuesday.

The measure passed the Republican-controlled Senate in a 31-16 vote on Feb. 20 and was approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in a 61-33 vote on Feb. 29.

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The legislation enshrines the protections of the federal law of the same name into state law. 

“Thirty years ago, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed almost unanimously at the federal level," 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 twenty-six other states have done — upholding the ideals that are the very foundation of our country.” 

The measure declares that “state action shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that applying that burden to a person’s exercise of religion is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The bill contains a provision enabling Iowans who feel like their right to religious freedom was burdened to “assert such violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding and obtain appropriate relief, including damages, injunctive relief, or other appropriate redress.”

Greg Chafuen, legal counsel with the conservative religious liberty nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the bill's passage in a statement Wednesday. 

“Americans should be able to defend their rights when their government stops them from living and worshiping according to their faith," he said. "[T]his law provides a sensible balancing test for courts to use when reviewing government policies that infringe upon the religious freedom rights of Iowans.”

“The law doesn’t determine who will win every disagreement, but it does ensure that every Iowan — regardless of their religious creed or political power — receives a fair hearing when government action forces a person to violate his or her religious beliefs,” Chafuen added.

“We commend the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Reynolds for enacting this important legislation and setting the stage to ensure that freedom of religion is protected for everyone.”

Opponents of the bill have argued that it is too broad.

Courtney Reyes, executive director of the pro-LGBT activist group One Iowa Action, claims the bill will permit discrimination against LGBT individuals. 

“There’s no denying it: this bill is aimed at discriminating against LGBTQ+ Iowans, single parents, people needing reproductive healthcare services, and many more," Reyes said in a statement. "Supporters of the legislation knew this when they voted down the amendment to prevent discrimination, and the Governor knew this when she selected the location of the signing over a month after its passage."

Reynolds signed the bill during the dinner event hosted by the Christian conservative activist group The Family Leader, led by influential Iowa Evangelical activist Bob Vander Plaats

Half of U.S. states do not have a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place, according to a report published by the First Liberty Institute last year.

States without such protections are Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

While Utah did not have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place at the time of the report’s publication, the state’s Republican Gov. Spencer Cox approved a law establishing protections for religious Utahns last month.

The legislation in Utah passed without any opposition, marking a contrast from the bill in Iowa, where the vote came down along party lines, with all support for the legislation coming from Republicans and all opposition to it coming from Democrats. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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