North Dakota voters soundly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment yesterday that would have granted “the right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief” even if such actions are otherwise illegal. Sixty-four percent of voters rejected the measure and only thirty-six percent voted in favor of it. Measure 3, or the so-called Religious Liberties Restoration State Constitution Amendment, was criticized for being too broad and for potentially permitting North Dakotans to even beat their wives or children if their religions allow it. The Measure would have also potentially given pharmacists and doctors the right to deny women birth control or other reproductive health services due to religious objections.
Chairman of North Dakotans Against Measure 3, Tom Fiebiger, a civil rights lawyer based in Fargo, praised the amendment’s defeat, saying, “We are grateful North Dakotans did the right thing and rejected this unnecessary and potentially dangerous Measure.”
Measure 3 stated that “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. 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.”
the Hill 6/13/12; Valley News Live 6/12/12; Huffington Post 6/12/12; The Bismarck Tribune 6/12/12; INForum 6/12/12; Feminist Majority Foundation emails 6/4/12, 5/30/12