Hillary Clinton has not addressed the question head-on of whether RFRA is being misrepresented in these new statutes. But she criticized the Supreme Court’s decision last year in a case involving a family-run company, Hobby Lobby, that successfully challenged the provision of contraception coverage to employees. That decision is among several in which courts have stretched the original RFRA law to apply in new situations.
“The reason that was passed and Bill signed it in the ’90s was because at that point there were legitimate cases of discrimination against religions,” Clinton said during an appearance last summer at the Aspen Institute.
Asked whether the high court decision was a “perverse” reading of RFRA, Clinton replied, “This is certainly a use that no one foresaw.”
Times have also changed, and the context of the new laws in crucial. They were passed following the expansion of legal protections for same-sex marriage, and were seen by some backers as a way to protect businesses or service providers opposed to those unions. But they were also passed in red states at a time when mainstream public opinion has tipped in favor of same-sex unions. And at a time when businesses, including many traditionally friendly to Republican ideas, saw such legislation as a potential legal liability.