Hewitt Comments on Religious Protection Freedom Act

<p>State Senator Mike Hewitt (R) 16th District</p>

State Senator Mike Hewitt (R) 16th District

Last week we told you about a bill proposed in the Washington State Senate by Kennewick's Sharon Brown--the Relgious Protection Freedom Act, under which no one could be forced to act in a manner contrary to their religious and philosophical beliefs, or against their conscience.            

Walla Walla State Senator Mike Hewitt is a co-sponsor of that bill. Friday his office got a phone call from a blogger asking what gays in rural areas would do for food and gas if stores and stations refused to serve them based on religious beliefs.     

The Hewitt staffer talking to the blogger answered, "gay people can just grow their own food".     The story blew up on the Huffington Post the last couple of days, and this afternoon Hewitt spoke with Your Local ABC about it.      

He says the comment was inappropriate, that he has counseled the staffer, and that the staffer apologized, but that his main concern is making sure business owners can't be sued for religiously based decisions.

"I think the bill is more broadly written than what I thought it was intended to do," said Hewitt.  "I'm asking to have that bill redrafted.  I think Sharon is going to have that bill redrafted into a much tighter version to get the very issue I want to get to and that's not being able to sue businesses."

Hewitt beleives the bill was written in response to Arlene's Flowers owner Baronelle Stutzman being sued by the state of Washington via a consumer protection suit and by the state chapter of the ACLU for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding based on religious beliefs. 

Brown told us Friday she would have proposed the bill even if the Arlene's case hadn't come to light. 

The bill was submitted too late for consideration during the recently concluded legislative session and may be discussed during either the upcoming special legislative session or during next year's regular session.