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John Lamb, Published June 12 2012

Religious freedom measure soundly defeated

FARGO – North Dakota voters are happy with their current level of religious freedom, defeating Measure 3 in Tuesday’s election.

In complete but unofficial results as of 12:30 a.m., 36 percent voted yes and 64 percent voted no.

Those tallies included 60,129 yes votes and 107,186 no votes.

The measure was heavily voted down in Cass County with the no votes garnering 72 percent to 28 percent for the yes votes.

Measure 3 would have amended Article I of the North Dakota Constitution by adding: “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.”

Proponents said the amendment would bolster religious freedom.

Opponents said Measure 3 was worded vaguely, could lead to “freedom of religion” being used as a defense in criminal cases and was unnecessary as religious freedom is not threatened here.

Tom Fiebiger, a Fargo-based civil rights attorney and chairman of North Dakotans Against Measure 3, released a statement that said, in part:

“We are grateful North Dakotans did the right thing and rejected this unnecessary and potentially dangerous Measure.”

Christopher Dodson, executive director and general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference, who signed the initiative petition to put the law on the ballot, wouldn’t directly comment on the early results, but later e-mailed a statement.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right,” it said. “As such, we must be ever-vigilant to ensure that this precious right is always protected and respected. The outcome of the vote on Measure 3 will not distract us from that task.”

The statement also stated that the “massive amount of out-of-state money Planned Parenthood poured into the opposition campaign confirms that religious freedom in North Dakota is not safe and that there are well-organized and well-funded groups ready to take advantage of that situation.”

For its part, Planned Parenthood released a statement congratulating North Dakotans for defeating Measure 3.

“Tonight, North Dakotans – with a strong and clear no vote – affirmed that religious liberty is securely protected in the US Constitution,” it stated.