Big differences between Ind. and Va. religion laws

FAIRFAX -- Indiana's recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act has sparked debates across the country, but the state is one of 20, including Virginia that has such an act in place.

The difference between Indiana's version of the law, and Virginia's is in the writing, according to George Mason University Law Professor and Director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership, Frank Shafroth.

When it comes to Indiana's law, Shafroth said, the explicit provision that allows any for profit business to assert a right to the free exercise of religion is similar to a 'Get out of Jail Free' card. You may discriminate if you can base it upon the religion that you practice.

But Shafroth said that is not the case in Virginia. There's no such specific grant to corporations in Virginia's or in the 1993 Federal religious freedom law that sparked so many debates on the state level.

The "fix" Indiana Governor Mike Pence suggested in a press conference Tuesday deals with that particular wording. As USA Today reported, Pence requested a bill that makes it "clear the law does not allow businesses the right to deny services to anyone."

Many of the protests against Indiana's law have concentrated on discrimination against the LGBT community, but in Arlington one woman said, "It's any group of people, if you threaten one, you threaten all."

"What if suddenly somebody doesn't like short women ... their religion says, 'Oh, women should be in the kitchen,' you get the idea. Religion can say anything," said Lynne Williamson who is disgusted by Indiana's law.

While Indiana now tries to clarify the language of their legislation, Shafroth said from his prospective, "It's creating lots of discussion and I think that discussion is going to end up being positive. At least I hope it is."

Though the language of Virginia's law lacks the same controversial wording, Shafroth said the state's legislature recently defeated Governor McAuliffe's efforts to add anti-discrimination language into a bill when they legalized the cab companies Uber and Lyft.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has issued an open letter to Indiana businesses saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does not discriminate against our friends and neighbors.