CFI Urges Defeat of North Dakota Measure That Would Privilege Religion

June 6, 2012

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is imploring North Dakota voters on Tuesday, June 12, to reject a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to, in many circumstances, place religious beliefs and practices above the law.

The controversial Measure 3 reads, in part, that “government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.” Supporters claim this proposal is needed to protect the right to freedom of religion. However, CFI believes it is both unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Under Article I of the North Dakota state constitution, and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious believers already have strongly protected rights to believe and congregate as they wish. But, dangerously, the proposal’s vague wording could allow religious institutions and believers in the state to avoid compliance with neutral laws of general applicability.

For example, Measure 3 could allow:

  • Child day care providers and parents to make decisions regarding their children’s health according to their own conceptions of “religious faith”;
  • Businesses and organizations providing services to the general public to deny services based on their religious tenets;
  • Religious organizations receiving taxpayer dollars for social services to discriminate in hiring and providing benefits;
  • Religious employers to terminate workers who do not fully comply with their particular dogma;
  • And religious employees to claim all manner of exemptions from certain workplace rules.

CFI has always defended freedom of conscience for all human beings, and will continue to do so. But Measure 3 does not aim not to protect this freedom; it aims to put religion on a pedestal, where it can be used as an excuse to disobey laws that everyone else must follow. It is an unacceptable breach of the spirit and letter of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and North Dakota voters should reject it outright.

We urge you to vote against this measure, and to share this message with friends.