The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is Bad News for Liberty

By Guest Writer Jay T. Paine

Everyone is upset with Indiana, probably because their Hoosier tires started blowing out. At least that would be a legitimate reason to be upset. Another legitimate reason for outrage is Section 8 of the Senate Enrolled Act No. 101 also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Let’s dissect this a little bit. A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion. That sounds great and for the most part it is. The government has no place in telling you who to worship, how to worship, or anything else having to do with worship or religion. This is not to say if you happen to worship Death like Thanos that your right to worship, trumps another’s natural rights including the right to live.

What is disconcerting is the term ‘substantially’. There is an implication that the government does have a role to place a burden on a person’s exercise of religion just so long as the burden isn’t substantial, a term that opens up a can of worms. It’s not just any kind of can of worms either. It is the grungiest, nastiest can of worms you have seen.

Once we continue reading, lawmakers detail why a governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion. Their first point: If it “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest”. They use some pretty broad language here. What exactly is a compelling governmental interest? Is it collecting taxes? Maybe it’s the amount of soda we are consuming? Remember when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was pushing a proposal to limit sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. Or what about how you are getting from place to place. The Commonwealth of Virginia banned Uber and Lyft last summer sending a cease and desist letter to the startups. Could these “compelling governmental interests” then be applied in a way to burden a person’s exercise of religion?

Possibly, but you don’t have that much to fear because if the government does decide to burden your right to exercise religion it will be the “least restrictive” means necessary.

Who really needs the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof”? In reality? No one really needs it. It’s a document, a piece of paper, which enshrines natural rights. The freedom of religion just so happens to be one of those natural rights. The legislators in Indiana have lost this connection and one can only deduce by their actions, they believe rights emanate from their own actions within government. They even violate their own Bill of Rights specifically sections 2 and 3:

Section 2. All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Section 3. No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.

There should be a furor over this bill. Let’s just make sure the outrage is pointed in the right direction and for the right reason. Our natural rights are being claimed by the government to dole out as they please. This is unacceptable.


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