Tech companies deride ‘religious freedom’ laws

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The online review company Yelp is urging other businesses to stay away from states that have enacted religious freedom laws.

The San Francisco-based company said it would be “unconscionable” for Yelp to create or expand a large presence in any state that encourages discrimination. 

{mosads}“I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions,” the company’s chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman said Thursday. “In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.”

Indiana is the latest state to enact a religious freedom law that prohibits the government from burdening someone’s religious freedom, unless it is narrowly tailored to promote a compelling government interest. 

States have argued the moves are necessary because their religious liberty is “under attack.” But gay rights groups have argued the laws could make it easier for businesses to discriminate against groups, including gay individuals. 

After signing the bill this week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) maintained the bill “is not about discrimination.” Eighteen other states have similar laws on the books, while dozens of others have introduced similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Other technology companies have made similar moves. The cloud computing company Salesforce said it would cancel any program that required its employees to travel to the state. 

Arkansas is also considering a similar law. The Human Rights Campaign began running ads against the bill in a Silicon Valley-based newspaper as Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) tries to make inroads with the technology community.

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