Religious freedom is one of the most basic and fundamental rights enjoyed by North Dakotans. It's plainly spelled out in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and in Article I Section 3 of the North Dakota Constitution, which says "The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference shall be forever guaranteed in this state, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness or juror on account of his opinion on matters of religious belief; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of this state."
Those established guarantees make Measure 3 unnecessary.
The measure's supporters have been unable to cite any examples of denied religious liberty in North Dakota. Religion-based organizations have for decades done important and necessary work in virtually every city and town in the state, and that work continues today.
The measure's wording is unclear in saying that the government must use the "least restrictive means" to protect a government interest when it conflicts with a religious practice. Certainly that phrase would be open to interpretation by lawyers, organizations and courts, leading to increased litigation and conflict when claims of religious freedom run afoul of secular laws. The measure also says government cannot "burden" religious liberty, but fails to define "burden."
Supporters and opponents differ over claims that Measure 3 would open the door to religious freedom-based challenges to laws prohibiting child abuse, domestic violence and other issues, but the measure's vague language should give voters cause for concern.
We believe the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and North Dakota's Constitution already adequately guarantee our religious freedom, making Measure 3 an unnecessary change to the state's most prized document. We suggest North Dakotans vote "no" on Measure 3.