Federalism & Religion
Montana Gov Passes New Law Providing More Legal Protections For Religious Freedom
By American Faith – July 14, 2021
The Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (MRFRA) was signed into law constituting more legal protections for religious freedom among citizens.
- The Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Bill 215) was drafted by Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Mo.) and signed by Montana governor Greg Gianforte in April.
- It allows citizens to challenge government regulations seen as impeding on their religious beliefs and requires the government to have a “compelling reason to violate a person’s constitutional right to freedom of religion” and to accomplish its objectives in the “least restrictive way possible.”
- Montana now makes a total of 22 states in the U.S. that have established legal protections for religious freedom over the last 30 years.
- Laws like SB 215 have protected, for example, a Native American who was charged for illegally possessing eagle feathers despite it being used for religious purposes, according to The Associated Press.
- They were also used to defend students’ rights to mention their religious faith during graduation speeches.
- The bill originates in the landmark 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith that established religious freedom as a second-class right. Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion separated religious freedom from other rights protected by the First Amendment rights. Religious freedom no longer treated the same way caused conservative lawmakers to draft RFRA laws for their respective states.
WHAT CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS ARE SAYING:
- Religious freedom group Alliance Defending Freedom defended SB 215 saying, “Citizens should not be left defenseless when their government attempts to burden their ability to live and worship according to their faith.”
- “This law provides a sensible balancing test for courts to use when reviewing government policies that infringe upon the religious freedom rights of Montanans,” the group added.
- Opponents believe SB 215 will enable businesses, for example, to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Over 250 companies co-signed a document opposing the law.
- And House Minority Leader Kim Abbott refered to SB 215 a “Republican attack on freedom” using “religion as an excuse to discriminate against Montanans.”
However, Republicans such as Great Falls Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick have defended the bill in light of the above objections, arguing that it “does not apply to individuals’ actions, only government interferences.”