Skyler Wheeler. ( IA Legislature photo)

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would prohibit state and local officials from imposing restrictions on religious institutions, like churches, that aren’t imposed on businesses and other secular institutions.

Republican Representative Skyler Wheeler of Orange City said it’s a response to things that happened during the pandemic.

“I’ll give two examples. One in Mississippi where police surrounded a church parking lot where congregants were attending a drive-in church service that required them to stay in their cars with their windows up. They fined every single one of them $500, however down the street they had restaurants that were serving customers with their windows down,” Wheeler said. “In Nevada, they required all churches to be limited to 50 people, while casinos and movie theaters were allowed to operate at 50% capacity.”

The only Democrat to speak during House debate called it “a good bill” and he encouraged other Democrats to vote yes. The bill passed the House on a 93-1 vote. Similar legislation is pending in the Iowa Senate.

The bills are different from a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that was introduced in the House and Senate the past couple of years and designed to give people a new avenue to sue over regulations they say conflict with their religious beliefs. Opponents argued that bill would have opened the door to discrimination and allowed customers at Iowa businesses to be denied service for religious reasons.