N.D. Ballot Measure Undermines Constitutional Protections, Editorial Argues

June 8, 2012 — "North Dakota Measure 3 on Tuesday's ballot is, at its core, an attempted ecclesiastical mugging of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment" and the "religious freedom guarantee" in the state's constitution, a Forum of Fargo-Moorhead editorial states.

The editorial notes that the measure says "government may not 'burden' religious liberty," but it "does not define burden or call for reasonable exceptions, as do religious liberty amendments in other states." Further, the measure "directs government to use 'least restrictive means' to further a government interest that might be in conflict with religious practice" -- a phrase that also is not defined and "certainly would have an effect on the application of secular laws," including child abuse and domestic violence statutes, according to the editorial.

In North Dakota, "religious liberty is practiced ... openly and frequently," the editorial continues, adding that the measure's supporters are unable to cite a single "example of denied or even attenuated religious liberty" in the state.

Measure 3 is "a self-serving scheme that has the potential to deeply divide people of faith, and thus undermine religious liberty, not protect it," the editorial concludes (Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6/6).