- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has engaged in some interstate payback by attempting to lure Indiana companies over the state’s newly signed religious-freedom bill, but what he doesn’t mention is that Illinois already has a similar law.

In a Friday letter, Mr. Emanuel cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as a reason to “look next door to an economy that is moving forward into the 21st century,” referring to Illinois.

“Gov. Pence’s act is wrong. It’s wrong for the people of Indiana, wrong for the individuals who will face new discrimination, and wrong for a state seeking to grow its economy,” said the letter, a copy of which was posted on the Crain’s Chicago Business website.

Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat and former top aide to President Obama, failed to point out that the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law in July 1998. What’s more, Indiana Republicans say Mr. Obama voted for the measure as an Illinois state senator.

Illinois is one of 20 states with a RFRA. Another 11 states have RFRA protection as a result of court decisions, while President Bill Clinton signed the federal RFRA in 1993.

Indiana has been targeted for an economic boycott after Mr. Pence signed the law, which critics say legalizes religious discrimination against gays. The Republican governor has denied the charge, saying he would not have signed a bill that allows discrimination.

SEE ALSO: White House hits Indiana’s religious freedom law amid criticism of Obama hypocrisy

Mr. Emanuel’s office sent out letters calling Chicago a “welcoming place” to about a dozen companies in Indiana, according to Crain’s political columnist Greg Hinz.

“Emanuel aides asked me not to name particular companies that have been targeted by the letters, which went out March 27,” said Mr. Hinz, adding that so far no businesses have responded to the entreaty.

Critics say Indiana’s law is different from other RFRA laws in part because it applies “regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is a party to the proceedings.”

That appears to indicate that a private business, such as a florist or bakery, could refuse to provide services for a gay wedding. At the same time, legal experts have noted that some courts have already interpreted the federal RFRA as applying to lawsuits between individuals.

At least two other states, Arkansas and Georgia, are considering similar bills this year. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed such a bill last year under threats of a state boycott, although Arizona had enacted a RFRA in 2012.

Indiana groups have attempted to lure Illinois businesses over the state line in the past with billboards such as, “Illinoyed by Higher Taxes? Come to Indiana, A State That Works,” according to Crain’s.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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