The Republican leader signed into law a new measure that strengthens Virginia's protections for religious freedom, which now includes outward expression.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin on Friday signed into law HB 1063, which amends the state's anti-discrimination laws to now include a definition of religion. Under the anti-discrimination law on public accommodations, employment and housing, citizens may no longer discriminate based on "religion," which now includes outward expressions of faith and not just inward beliefs.

"Religion' includes any outward expression of religious faith, including adherence to religious dressing and grooming practices and the carrying or display of religious items or symbols," the text of HB 1063 reads, the Christian Headlines reported.

HB 1063 "clarifies that 'religion' as it relates to freedom of expression includes any outward expression of religious faith in contexts where discrimination on the basis of religion is prohibited," the Virginia Department of Plannnig and Budget explained. The department added that the new law does not have any anticipated state fiscal impact.

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Religious Freedom Advocates Celebrate New Virginia Law Protecting 'Expression of Religious Faith'

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, expressed delight in the passing of the new law amending state anti-discrimination laws in Virginia. ADF senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor said that all Americans are "guaranteed the right to free speech and the free exercise of religion" under the U.S. Constitution.

"HB 1063 provides a necessary and helpful clarification in the law to help ensure Virginians won't face discrimination simply for outwardly expressing their religious beliefs," Baylor remarked. The ADF leader explained that the new law is necessary, as Virginia had prohibited "discrimination on the basis of religion" without defining the actual word "religion." Because of this failure, some citizens have been exposed to "hostile reactions" to outward expressions of faith.

Baylor added that ADF commended the Virginia governor and the Virginia General Assembly for clarifying the definitions of religion, which now enables state citizens to "freely live out their faith without fear of government punishment."

Virginia Became Hotspot for Religious Freedom Cases

In 2021, Loudoun County in Virginia made headlines when a Christian P.E. teacher by the name of Byron "Tanner" Cross refused to comply with the school district's proposed policy on LGBT students, which he said would oppose his religious beliefs. NBC News reported at the time that the Christian teacher spoke out against the LGBT policies of the school, saying, "I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it's against my religion, it's lying to my child, it's abuse to a child and it's sinning against our God."

Tanner was then placed on leave, causing a stir among concerned parents and community members who supported the teacher's arguments. In November 2021, ADF, which represented Tanner, said that a settlement was reached when the Loudoun County School Board agreed to a permanent injunction that prohibited the school from retaliating against Cross for expressing his religious views on the school board's transgender policy.

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