Walmart Declines to Say What Part of Arkansas Religious Freedom Bill It Doesn't Support

Customers are seen at a Walmart market in Miami, Florida May18, 2010 |

The major retail chain Walmart has declined to say what specific part of the state's controversial religious freedom bill it opposes.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon released a statement Tuesday denouncing the Arkansas legislature's passage of House Bill 1228, which he claimed was anti-gay.

"Today's passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold," stated McMillon.

"For these reasons, we are asking Governor [Asa] Hutchinson to veto this legislation."

The Christian Post reached out to Walmart for further comment on the reasons for this opposition, as well as their opinion on similar legislation elsewhere in the United States.

In the initial query, CP asked what specific part or quote from HB 1228 that Walmart found reprehensible.

A Walmart spokesperson returned comment, directing CP to the McMillon statement and providing a statement regarding the matter as it may pertain to other states.

"Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. It all starts with the core basic belief of respect for the individual," stated the spokesperson.

"While this type of legislation will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel these bills are counter to this core basic belief."

mike pence
U.S. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) (C) talks with reporters as he departs a meeting about debt ceiling legislation with fellow Republicans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 28, 2011. |

When asked again by CP to explain what specific part of HB 1228 prompted the concern by Walmart, the spokesperson responded that "I don't really have anything beyond the two statements. If we update, I'll send that along."

Filed in February and passed by the legislature earlier this week, HB 1228 calls for Arkansas to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Like other RFRA laws at the state and federal level, HB 1228 reads that a person or group cannot be forced to compromise their religious practices unless there exists a compelling state interest.

"A state action shall not substantially burden a person's right to exercise of religion, even if the substantial burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the substantial burden to the person's exercise of religion in this particular instance … [is] essential to further a compelling governmental interest [and is] the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest," reads HB 1228 in part.

HB 1228 garnered headlines following the widespread controversy over Indiana recently enacting a similarly worded RFRA law.

While neither Arkansas nor Indiana's RFRA laws mention gays or lesbians, critics argued that the bills would legally sanction discrimination against people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Regarding the Indiana RFRA, the state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter denounced the new law as being potentially harmful to the LGBT community.

"The timing of this legislation is all important to understanding its intent: the bill was introduced as a backlash reaction to achieving marriage equality for same-sex couples in Indiana," stated the ACLU.

"It poses harm to our reputation as a welcoming state that is open to everyone and to the balance that respects individuals' freedom of religion without jeopardizing others' freedom from discrimination."

Walmart's comments to CP come on the same day that Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson announced that he will be sending HB 1228 back to legislators.

"The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions," stated Hutchinson.

"We wanted to have it crafted similar to what is at the federal level … To do that, though, changes need to be made. The bill that is on my desk at the present time does not precisely mirror the federal law."

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