Letter to the editor: Measure 3 restores needed protection for our libertyWhenever someone wants to defeat legislation they are sure to claim that proposal is “vague” and “unclear,” whether it is true or not. What is surprising, however, is that some attorneys would employ the same tactic with Measure 3.
By: Christopher Dodson, Bismarck, The Jamestown Sun
Whenever someone wants to defeat legislation they are sure to claim that proposal is “vague” and “unclear,” whether it is true or not. What is surprising, however, is that some attorneys would employ the same tactic with Measure 3.
The language of Measure 3 is something every first year law student learns. It is the “strict scrutiny” standard the U.S. Supreme Court and our own North Dakota Supreme Court used for religious freedom cases prior to 1990.
That year the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself, holding governments can burden religious freedom for practically any reason and even if an alternative exists. The court, however, held that states and Congress could restore the more balanced standard. The federal government and most of the states have done that. Measure 3 is North Dakota’s turn.
Considering that the courts of North Dakota understood and applied the language in Measure 3 before 1990 — when doing so was required to by the U.S. Supreme Court — it defies logic to say that they will be incapable of doing so again. Similarly, the courts were not clogged with religious freedom cases before 1990. Why would they be clogged when Measure 3 restores the standard?
Perhaps they should look next door. More than 20 years ago the Minnesota Supreme Court held that its state’s constitution requires that if a person’s “sincere religious belief” is “burdened” (“substantial” is not required), the state must prove a “compelling state interest” and “demonstrate that public safety cannot be achieved by proposed alternative means.” In other words, Minnesota uses the same standard as Measure 3. It has not clogged the courts or led to abuses in Minnesota and there is no reason to conclude it would do so here.
(Dodson is executive director and general counsel of the North Dakota Catholic Conference)