N.D. 'Religious Liberty' Ballot Measure is 'Misguided,' Editorial States

May 29, 2012 — "North Dakotans should reject the misguided, misleadingly named 'Religious Liberty Restoration' measure when they vote in their state primary early next month," a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial states. The proposed state constitutional amendment (Measure 3) "would potentially allow one person's religious beliefs to infringe on others' rights," according to the editorial (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/24).

Measure 3, which will appear on the ballot in the June 12 primary election, states that the government "may not burden a person's or religious organization's religious liberty." It adds, "The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities" (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/3).

The Tribune editorial states that voters "might assume that Measure 3 simply safeguards against the Obama administration's controversial birth control mandate from earlier this year," but "Measure 3's proponents began their push well before that controversial decision." The measure is broadly worded and, "[i]f passed, it could give any employer the right to challenge birth control or medical procedures covered in employees' health insurance," the editorial states.

The Tribune warns that if Measure 3 is approved in North Dakota, "the religious right and Catholic-bishop affiliated organizations in Minnesota and elsewhere might push similar self-serving measures" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/24).