Senator Kruse’s SB 101 passed out of committee and is now eligible for second reading. It has been designated “religious freedom restoration.” It seems to track the federal law with the same name but generally, as the synopsis says, it:
Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.
“Substantial burden” is not defined, nor, for that matter, is “religion.” However, “exercise of religion” is defined as “any exercise of religion,whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.”
First of all, this kind of broad and ill-defined language is a huge headache for government. A person doesn’t want to follow the law and says it substantially burdens his religion. Now what? You might just have to take his word for it — his religious belief, as the statute points out, doesn’t have to be part of any kind of organized system — nor does the objectionable regulation have to be central to the person’s religion.
I’m not religious but I’m not going to sneer at those who are. I recognize that plenty of good, thoughtful people have sincere religious beliefs. I will, however, observe that this legislation gives religious beliefs a preferred status above other sorts of beliefs that are just as sincerely held. If I object to an ordinance for sincere but secular reasons, those are just the breaks of being a citizen. I don’t see the compelling policy reasons for the General Assembly to make this distinction.