No compelling case made

2012-06-06T02:00:00Z No compelling case madeTribune editorial Bismarck Tribune
June 06, 2012 2:00 am  • 

Writers of Measure 3 on the 2012 primary ballot wish to add language to the state constitution with protections so "government may not burden a person's or religious organization's religious liberty." The standard it would apply for individuals is "a sincerely-held religious belief," and for the government a "substantial compelling interest."

Opponents of the measure have not made a clear case against adopting additional protections for religious beliefs or practices. Nor have proponents made a compelling argument for changing the North Dakota Constitution by inserting new language to protect religion from government. This being the case, the Tribune suggests a no vote for Measure 3 on the June 12 primary ballot.

North Dakotans should rely on their existing state and national constitutions for their religious liberty.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." — First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Founding Fathers made their position clear: There would be no national religion, nor could Congress tell people how to practice whatever religion they chose. The North Dakota Constitution evokes "Almighty God for the blessing of civil and religious liberty ..." and is followed by a commitment to the "free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship."

The provisions for "religious liberty" in the U.S. Constitution and North Dakota Constitution are unequivocal. The addition of language promoted by Measure 3 would not in principle add or strengthen religious freedom in this state. The compelling interest language could, in some cases, exempt churches and orders from laws that the general public is required to follow. It would be a murky road ahead under the proposed constitutional amendment.

Religious freedom was wired into American DNA as a number of colonies were established by singular Christian denominations and by colonists who had fled England's religious persecution. Given those strongly held colonial roots in different denominations, the motivation becomes clear for Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and state.

The writing of the religious liberty provisions of the North Dakota Constitution carries that belief in religious freedom forward.

North Dakotans are, generally, comfortable with Christian practice. Rarely do you hear of protests about prayer before a public meeting; the Legislature, when in session, opens the day with prayer. School Christmas programs here have become more sensitive to separation of church and state issues, but the Christian spirit hasn’t gone out of what is clearly a religious holiday.

The issue between church and state that generated Measure 3 comes from elsewhere. And although many North Dakotans of different faiths are uncomfortable with federal mandating of contraception and reproductive rights into health insurance programs, the vehicle for resolving those issues isn't the state's constitution.

In North Dakota, people do not believe government should have a right to tell people how to conduct their personal lives. The same goes for churches. North Dakotans firmly believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees their religious freedom.

North Dakotans should reject Measure 3.

Copyright 2016 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(26) Comments

  1. Diraphe
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    Diraphe - June 09, 2012 9:19 pm
    Did Jesus himself not state that not a word of the 'old law' would be changed?
    Was it not the old testament that prophesied the coming of Jesus?
    Sorry the bible is not a salad where you can pick out the croutons and leave the spinach, if you disregard the old test. you have to do the same with the new.
  2. Simple
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    Simple - June 08, 2012 3:09 pm
    Read the comments on this article on Creflo Dollar(TV Preacher) beating his daughter. There are too many people out there who believe that religious freedom includes the freedom to beat your daughter. http://www.11alive.com/comments/244082/40/Creflo-Dollar-arrested-for-assaulting-daughter
  3. krten1966
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    krten1966 - June 08, 2012 11:20 am
    None of the texts concern sexual orientation. The Scripture passages used to denounce homosexuals describe same-sex acts in varying forms of depravities as perpetuated by people who naturally possess opposite-sex attractions. But nothing concerned with people who are born with same-sex attractions acting according to their own natural bent.
  4. Gospeltruth
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    Gospeltruth - June 07, 2012 7:20 pm
    Say what? Go take a walk and get some fresh air man so you can think straight!
  5. Gospeltruth
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    Gospeltruth - June 07, 2012 7:12 pm
    That text has nothing to do sexual orientation! It sounds like you are making a straw man argument when you obviously have no idea what you are talking about!
  6. JonnyB
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    JonnyB - June 07, 2012 5:51 pm
    Great editorial Bismarck Tribune. Vote No on Measure #3. I was raised a Lutheran which was fine and now I consider myself an independent.

    Dear Gospeltruth,

    You said, " You need to read the following New Testament verses that clearly teach against homosexual behavior: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10."

    Why do you even bring up homosexuality? I am a straight man and I am offended by your comments. You must believe that by passing Measure #3, you will have the right to condemn our gay brothers and sisters. Measure #3 is obviously backed by Christians. However, Measure #3 applies to all religions. Perhaps you would like to bring Sharia Law into our legal system. Then it would be permissible for a man to beat his spouse. Although beating one's spouse is illegal, each violation would have to be reviewed in court, case by case. If one's religion allows an adult man to marry a female child each case would need to be reviewed in court. I of course believe that it is wrong for a person to beat their spouse or anyone for that matter and I believe that it is wrong for a person to marry a child. I do not believe that we should condemn consenting adults for their sexual preferences.

    VOTE NO ON MEASURE #3
  7. Report Abuse
    - June 07, 2012 5:36 pm
    Gospeltruth is correct in quoting St. Paul, who is well known for some things he had to say about women in particular. But Gospeltruth will not address the questions I asked him--why do you suppose Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality? And how do you explain John 21:7, which should give all of us pause as we try to understand this man Jesus and his sexual orientation?
  8. krten1966
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    krten1966 - June 07, 2012 12:58 pm
    "clearly teach against"? Clearly? How so when the word "homosexuality" wasn't coined until the mid to late 1800s?
  9. krten1966
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    krten1966 - June 07, 2012 9:02 am
    Yes, I have read the Bible through and through. I have discovered and fully know that God's deep and mysterious grace is far richer and more true than human's condemnation for that which they deem outside their definition of normal and tolerable.
  10. Phyloc
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    Phyloc - June 07, 2012 8:01 am
    Gospeltruth should understand that Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with the old testament, which those of his or her ilk constantly quote to strengthen their "christian" arguments. When Jesus, whom christians are supposed to base their faith on, not Mosaic Law, was pressed to comment on old testament scripture, said that he was here to show a "different way". So, people, please stop quoting old testament scripture to further christian based arguments. Find me something in the new testament which speaks to homosexuality.
  11. Report Abuse
    - June 07, 2012 6:45 am
    Gospeltruth: If the lifestyle of homosexuality is so important in the Bible, why do you suppose Jesus never addressed the issue? And while you are at it, please explain John 21:7 which starts out "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith . . ."
  12. Rugby Reader
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    Rugby Reader - June 06, 2012 11:39 pm
    Great comment!!
  13. krten1966
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    krten1966 - June 06, 2012 11:27 pm
    Thank you Bismarck Tribune, oft labeled as the more conservative newspaper in North Dakota, for encouraging North Dakotans to Vote No on Measure 03 on June 12th.

    As a gay Christian, I too am one of the many North Dakotans against Measure Three (called the Religious Liberties Restoration Amendment). According to the proposed initiative, a person's right to act or refuse due to a religious belief may not be burdened by the government unless the government proves it has a "compelling interest" in regulating behavior.

    I am not against the freedom of religious expression. However, these are my reasons for not voting in favor of this amendment: 1] The two primary groups backing this measure have led efforts against marriage equality, and against legislative attempts for fair labor and housing laws concerning the liberty of North Dakota's gay citizens despite assurances that religious institutions would be exempt. 2] The measure is not only unnecessary but potentially opens the door for many religious behaviors that aren’t necessarily positive, and will raise controversial ways to define extreme religious views. 3] The language in this law is too broad and has so many loopholes which can open the door for harmful unintended consequences for all North Dakotans.

    Be cautious, good people, as this measure can be used to the detriment of the vulnerable. This is an example of people wanting for themselves what they do not want for others. There are too many possibilities of unintended consequences. Religious liberties are protected by both the US Constitution and the current North Dakota Constitution. I am voting "No".
  14. Simple
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    Simple - June 06, 2012 3:45 pm
    Can a supporter of this please explain SPECIFICALLY what freedoms that they have lost that this measure will reinstate?
  15. Simple
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    Simple - June 06, 2012 3:41 pm
    Add Sunday retail to that. The cohabitation law was just repealed 5 years ago. 41 members of the ND house still voted against repealing it.

    One needs to look no further than one of the sponsors of this measure is the ND Family Alliance. They fought repeal of the cohabitation law. The freedom they believe in is for only themselves. Other than degrees of severity they are no different than the taliban.

  16. Velvet Jones
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    Velvet Jones - June 06, 2012 2:59 pm
    "In North Dakota, people do not believe government should have a right to tell people how to conduct their personal lives. "

    Hahaha. That's a good one. Maybe I've just visited some odd parts of the state, but I've encountered more than a few are the christian equivalent of the Taliban. Just look at the states laws regarding alcohol, drugs, and "adult" businesses. They certainly do not reflect those of a people that don't believe in government telling people how to conduct their personal lives.
  17. skippip
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    skippip - June 06, 2012 11:58 am
    Can you cite one example where the bishops or the Yes on 3 campaign has said that the measure would stop Obamacare?
  18. sehr windig
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    sehr windig - June 06, 2012 11:28 am
    I agree Trib. This amendment does nothing but reaffirm the false self-belief of christians that they're a persecuted class. I also think it's aimed at the current sitting president - a constitution should not be used as a weapon for a political pot-shot.

    This amendment will do nothing except add length to the constitution, and provide some lawyers with a bigger salary.

    Scrap it!
  19. Tovarich Volk
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    Tovarich Volk - June 06, 2012 10:40 am
    For those of you who support 'right wing' religious causes that would support this, bear in mind that you will be paving the way for not only the church of your choice to usurp state laws to further your cultural warfare agenda, you will also be giving free reign to some of the nastier forms of Sharia interpretation, but also allowing fundamentalist Mormons like Warren Jeffs, Scientology, and the like to operate unchecked, unhindered, and entirely within the legal framework of the State of North Dakota.
  20. Senator Tim Mathern
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    Senator Tim Mathern - June 06, 2012 10:09 am
    The Bismarck Tribune Editorial gives a basic civics lesson, state policy does not trump federal policy. I have wondered since the beginning why the Bishops have been promoting a yes vote on Measure 3 as a way to stop Obamacare. Those who do not like aspects of Obamacare need to work on federal solutions, not change the North Dakota constitution to accomplish their aims. Senator Tim Mathern
  21. notnek
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    notnek - June 06, 2012 9:38 am
    Thank you Tribune for calling out those who actually have a goal in mind by trying to inject their wording onto the constitution.
    Organized religion is about power. Power gained by carefully and slowly attempting to inject their ideas of faith into law.
    This is nothing but an attempt to allow some religions to ignore any law or tax they choose. Just imagine what legal headaches a yes vote would add to the courts.
    With all the religious freedoms granted in this wonderful country I am always amazed when organized religion leaders keep trying to legislate through the back door. History is full of very tragic chapters, the result of religion in an all powerful position.
    I wish this editorial would have called this power attempt what is really is A Trojan Horse.

  22. skippip
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    skippip - June 06, 2012 9:32 am
    "The addition of language promoted by Measure 3 would not in principle add or strengthen religious freedom in this state."

    The claim that it would not strengthen religious freedom in the state is not supported by religious law experts who have reviewed the measure. (http://www.yesonmeasurethree.org/resources/NorthDakotaScholarsLetter.pdf) Indeed, even the opponents acknowledge that the measure would strengthen religious freedom in the states. (They just don't think that it should be strengthened.)

    Whether you think it is a good idea, one thing is clear: Current law in North Dakota allows the government to infringe upon religious freedom for a less than a compelling reason. Measure 3 would limit it to a compelling reason.
  23. Vikingssuck
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    Vikingssuck - June 06, 2012 8:31 am
    Vote no to measure 2 and 3
  24. WeThePeople
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    WeThePeople - June 06, 2012 8:19 am
    Excellent editorial. I too agree completely and voted against it (absentee ballot).
  25. Report Abuse
    - June 06, 2012 7:39 am
    The Tribune's editorial staff hit the mark on this one. Although the editorial says opponents of Measure 3 have not made a clear case against it, I think the conclusion the editorial reaches shows the staff was reading the many letters to the editor that have clearly built a case against this measure. Let us hope the readers of the Tribune are paying attention. Vote no on Measure 3.
  26. Rugby Reader
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    Rugby Reader - June 06, 2012 7:28 am
    Great editorial. I couldn't agree more.
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