North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment Would Allow The Precepts Of Religion To Trump The Law Of The Land


In order to form a more perfect theocracy, the latest from the lunatic fringe is the North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment, or Measure 3, due to appear on the North Dakota Ballot, this Tuesday, June 12, 2012. As ever when you hear the words “religious freedom” you can be sure that whatever is being discussed has virtually nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with anti-reproductive choice for women. You can be even more sure that something other than religious freedom is up when you find out that the powerful North Dakota Catholic Conference (NDCC) and the North Dakota Family Alliance, the state’s leading Religious Right Group and local affiliate of the James Dobson’s Focus on Family, were behind the petition that collected signatures from the voters to get the Act on the ballot.

The North Dakota Religious Freedom Act proposes to revise the state constitution by adding the following section to Article 1:

“Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

The language of the bill is purposely broad and how it can and will be interpreted by the courts has legal scholars on edge. Essentially what was once a crime is no longer a crime unless the law can prove that the action that was once a crime is not part of the religion of the accused. Furthermore if the crime that was once a crime, (let’s say discrimination), is no longer a crime under the guise of religion, then to withhold federal funds from the group or organization that is committing the crime, (discriminating), that is no longer a crime due to religion, is against the law.

According to Robert Doody, executive director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, “this proposed amendment could lead people to refuse to follow virtually any law. It could allow people to argue that they have a right to abuse their children, refuse to hire people of different faiths, or deny emergency health care.” As per Alex J. Luchenister, Associate Legal Director for American’s United for Separation of State and Church,“Measure 3 could force the state government to provide taxpayers funds to religious groups. It would also cause religious groups to be favored over non-religious groups. As a result of Measure 3 religious groups and persons could claim exemptions from laws intended to protect people’s rights, such as laws requiring the provision of reproductive health services or prohibiting the infusion of religion into public education.” As per Jusita columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci J. Hamilton, the North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment is “an opportunity to unilaterally adjust public policy to fit each religious individual’s and organization’s world view.”

The North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment is little more than a power grab by the Catholic hierarchy, at the state level, to sanction discrimination and receive federal funds while doing it, under the guise of protecting religion. Pay attention because they are taking a page from the anti-choice movement, which is so successfully taking apart the legal right to abortion, also at the state level. Planned Parenthood has donated $650,00 to North Dakotans Against Measure 3. $610,400 of that is from Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Another $380,400 has come through the people. The good news is more money is being spent against Measure 3 than for Measure 3.

Grand Forks is North Dakota’s third largest city. The North Dakota Grand Forks Herald and its parent company Forum Communications DO NOT ENDORSE MEASURE 3. Tom Dennis the Herald’s opinion editor writes…

“In North Dakota, there is no threat to religious freedom so urgent that the measure needs to be passed right now. The state can take its time and study the issue with more care, including the laws and experiences in other states. Given the profound worries about Measure 3 as expressed by knowledgeable critics, that’s the prudent course.”

Here’s the petition for North Dakotans Against Measure 3. Pledge to Vote NO!”

Live loud, love fierce, and suffer no fools. Katherine Manaan (MAWT)

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