Penelope A. Morrell, Area Director South
Concerned Women for America of Maine
To Members of the Joint Judiciary Committee
Regarding L.D. 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom.”
January 16, 2014
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. The large number of participants in this hearing indicates that people feel strongly about this issue. One thing we can all agree on is that the best interests and freedoms of all individuals must prevail over the interests and freedoms of a few.
Concerned Women for America (CWA) is the largest public policy women’s organization in the nation with more than 500,000 members. Maine currently enjoys 2,800 members.
Concerned Women for America of Maine (CWA of Maine) supports L.D. 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom.”
This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in years. Senator David Burns’ bill simply holds the State of Maine to the same legal standard as our Federal government in cases regarding religious liberty. Maine would have to have a compelling interest to restrict someone’s religious freedom, and even then it would have to do so in the least restrictive manner. Our Founding Fathers deemed religious liberty our “first freedom,” because if our duty to God is subordinate to duty to the state, the state takes God’s role and all our rights and liberties become subject to the whims of our rulers.
The 4th President of the United States, James Madison, known as the “Father of our Constitution” for his instrumental role in its drafting was also instrumental in the drafting of the Bill of Rights, and the placement of this essential freedom at the top of the list of the Amendments he introduces as a series of legislative articles to the 1st Congress. In that same spirit, the 103rd Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), noting that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.” 43 U.S.C.§ 2000bb(a)(3). The law was passed in 1993 during the Clinton administration and with the ACLU supporting it; however, the Supreme Court declared in 1997 that RFRA did not apply to state governments. That is why each state must act individually to enact those protections. Eighteen other states have passed this same bill including Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Why shouldn’t Maine citizens have the exact same level of protection of their First Amendment Rights as the citizens of those states?
Right now, Christian businesses and organizations, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, are using RFRA to try to stop the federal government from forcing them to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their insurance plans in violation of their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court is considering those cases at this very moment. That’s just one example of how this law can help us protect our religious liberties. For several years now, governments throughout the United States have tried to limit our religious liberty to the walls of our places of worship and impede expressions of faith in the public square. We must not let that happen in Washington, D.C. nor in the State of Maine.
Virginia Bill of Rights, Article 16
Categories: Religious Liberty
Date: June 12, 1776
[R]eligion, or the duty which we owe to our creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and this is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.
I urge this committee to vote “ought to pass” on L.D. 1428.