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Barb Schulz, Bismarck, Published June 09 2012

Measure 3 would decrease liberty

Measure 3 on the North Dakota June primary ballot is of great concern to me. Contrary to the promoters selling the idea that this “amendment” will prevent the government from “burdening” religious freedom, in fact, it does just the opposite.

Read the amendment for yourself and you will find that it enshrines in the state constitution the provision that if the “government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific (religious) act or refusal to act, ‘then it may burden a person’s or religious organization’s’ religious liberty.”

“Burdens” include (but are not limited to) “withholding benefits, assessing penalties … exclusion from programs or access to facilities.” What other kinds of “burdens” could a government impose under the classification of “indirect burdens?”

Since when are penalties listed in the state constitution, which is the guarantor of our rights?

How is the government going to ascertain how “sincerely held” anyone’s “religious belief” is? Will we have a new office or officer in charge of making this determination?

Is “compelling government interest” going to be decided by majority vote in the state Legislature? In China, the “compelling state interest” is limiting the population to one child. Accordingly, the state enforces a one-child policy and forces abortions.

This amendment is being offered as a correction to a 1990 Supreme Court ruling, but what problems have arisen in North Dakota because of that ruling?

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “freedom of religion.” This “amendment” to the state constitution would actually decrease religious liberty.

Measure 3 is a sleeper that has certainly not had the kind of very public discussion that it deserves.

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, I plan to vote “no.”