Is Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act the same as the federal version that became law two decades ago? Not quite.
Indiana's RFRA is similar, but not identical. And there's debate about how much those differences matter.
Proponents say Senate Bill 101, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence last week, is virtually the same as the federal statute. It prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person's ability to practice his or her religion — unless the government can show it has a compelling interest to do so. And the government must choose the least restrictive way to achieve its goal.
Others, however, have emphasized the differences in the laws, saying the Indiana law is written more broadly than its federal counterpart.
One of them is U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer who, along with Sen. Ted Kennedy, introduced the federal RFRA when he was a congressman in 1993. The Democrat from New York said on his Facebook page that saying the two laws mirror each other is "completely false" and "disingenuous"
and called on Pence to stop making such comparison.
Schumer cited what he called "significant, legal differences" and said the Indiana law "in no way resembles the intent or application of the federal RFRA which protects religious liberty.
Here are ways the laws differ and what opponents and proponents say the differences mean:
1) Unlike the federal law, the Indiana bill explicitly protects the exercise of religion of entities, which includes for profit corporations.
Opponents of the bill say it would grant religious liberty rights to any corporation, any group of people and any business, regardless of whether or not members of that corporation or business share a religious belief. The federal law grants such rights only to people, nonprofit organizations and, in the case of the often-cited Hobby Lobby ruling, to closely-held corporations where owners share the same religious beliefs.
That difference is a concern, said Katherine Franke, a Columbia University law professor, because the law would grant religious rights to broad entities.
"It completely expands the idea that anything can have a right to religious liberty even if they're incorporated for secular or commercial purposes,"
said Franke, who's one of 30 legal scholars who raised concerns about RFRA in a letter to Rep. Ed Delaney last February. "We haven't seen this broad definition."