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Fact-Checking Jeb Bush: Does FL Have A Religious Freedom Law Like Indiana’s?



  As debate over Indiana's new religious freedom law continues -- with one side saying it allows discrimination against gays and the other saying it protects one's right to observe their religious beliefs -- former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is defending Indiana's law.

And he says  Florida has its own version of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

According to PolitiFact Florida, that claim is Half True. Florida does have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed by the Legislature in 1998, following the 1993 federal law of the same nature.

“The gay marriage debate was not such a big issue back then -- it wasn’t really a part of the discussion,” explained PolitiFact's Josh Gillin.  “It is different (in 2015), and therefore, the language is different.”

A total of 19 other states have these laws.

“They were designed to protect people from the government.  The Indiana law doesn’t necessarily say the government has to be a party to an issue, and that’s where the big controversy has come in,” Gillin said. “They’re saying that corporations are protected … say a baker or a florist who does not want to participate in a gay wedding doesn’t have to because their religious freedom might be impinged upon.  That’s the argument, although that language is not specifically in the Indiana law.”

The Florida law, other states’ laws and the federal law all say the government has to be a party to the issue.

“So there are some language differences there that really change the meaning of what Bush is saying --  that they are the same thing,” Gillin said. “They’re not the same thing. They’re similar, but the language is different, so we called it Half True. “

PolitiFact Florida also gave a Half True ruling to a claim about school uniforms.

Lawmakers in the Florida House are moving forward on a bill from State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, that would set aside $10 million to fund uniforms in public schools. Adkins said it would help with safety and truancy.

According to Gillin, the statistics are all over the board on this one – and cautions “the data is far from uniform.”

Some studies support the claim that school uniforms do improve attendance rates and cut down on violent behavior.

“But once we really started to dig into the numbers we found – that as is the case with some subjects – the studies, depending on how you line them up or where you’re doing them or how wide your sample is, they can say all sorts of things,” Gillin said. “And there are some real problems with the data. In some studies, they showed violence actually goes up.”

Lottie Watts is our Florida Mattersproducer, and she also covers health and health policy for.
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