DES MOINES — A bill Republican sponsors are calling a “religious freedom restoration” bill has cleared its first procedural hurdle in the Iowa Senate.

Joan Thompson of the Iowa Catholic Conference says it’ll prevent the government from forcing Iowans to do things that violate their religious beliefs.

“This bill provides a standard of review for the court when there’s a conflict between the First Amendment’s protection of free exercise of religion and a particular law,” she said. “This is not a license to discriminate. It simply gives people and institutions a chance in court.”

Opponents say religious freedom is already protected in the Iowa Constitution and several business groups pointed to the boycotts that have been launched against other states which have similar laws.

“It has not made those states look like they are trying to attract and appeal to all comers and that’s the reality,” said Iowa Chamber Alliance executive John Stineman, “and there are economic consequences to that.”

This is the second year bill backers have tried to get this bill through the legislature. It’s unclear if Governor Kim Reynolds would sign it into law if it does pass the House and Senate. Reynolds told reporters yesterday that she hasn’t read the bill.

“The constitutional protection that is already in place for individuals to freely live out their religious freedom and the protections, the laws that are in place to make sure we don’t discriminate against Iowans — there’s no reasons that the two of those things can’t co-exist,” Reynolds said.

Twenty-one states have enacted religious liberty bills, but the language in those laws varies.