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North Dakota Rejects Hilariously Terrible 'Religious People Can Do Whatever They Want' Amendment

Illustration for article titled North Dakota Rejects Hilariously Terrible Religious People Can Do Whatever They Want Amendment

South Dakota, I love you, but you're bringing me down. Your neighbor to the north, the lovely and creatively named "North Dakota," just pulled ahead in the ongoing Race to Determine Which of the Dakotas is superior by roundly rejecting a ballot measure that would have given any ol' religious dickbag the constitutional right to do pretty much whatever they wanted and then defend their action by saying it was their religion's fault. The amendment's pro-choice detractors feared that the law would be used to punch women straight in the babymaking parts, limiting their access to contraception and abortion. But potential violations of North Dakota women's bodily autonomy is not the only reason that the law was a terrible abortion of democracy.


Although it sounds like vintage Blunt Amendment-inspired swill, Measure 3 has actually been in the works since before an all-male panel brought to Capitol Hill to discuss women's access to birth control was just a glint in Darrell Issa's eye. But the same groups that are currently gung-ho about constitutionally enshrining the right of pharmacists to not do their job because it hurts their feelings are behind it.

The innocuously small amendment reads, "Government may not burden a person's or religious organization's religious liberty." Taken at face value, this doesn't seem like too nutty a proposition. But opponents point out that it could be use to justify a number of egregious actions, and then protect the perpetrators as long as the perpetrators claimed that what they did was in accordance with their religious faith. This includes child abuse, spousal abuse, slaveholding (I mean, it's in the Bible), rape victim stoning, and, of course, the requisite right to abortion and contraception refusal conservatives seem so eager to grant to religious professionals.


When I say voters "roundly rejected" Measure 3, that's not hyperbole — that horrible mess of a bill got its ass kicked. Thanks to anti-child abuse and pro-women's groups sounding the alarm, an unusually high number of North Dakota voters showed up to the polls last night. Sixty percent of them voted "no" on the measure, beating out the "yes" vote by 30 points. Turns out, people in Real America are just fine with the religious freedom that everyone else has.


Image via spirit of America/Shutterstock

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meritxell: an erotic life

Once more, with feeling:

*sigh* for the millionth time ever, and since the author apparently didn't get it through her head enough the first time to educate herself on some constitutional law basics, this constitutional amendment would:

1) Apply the Supreme Court sanctioned religious exercise balancing test (compelling state interest; narrowly tailored) to laws of general applicability when somebody is claiming an undue burden on their free exercise, by

2) Encoding it in their state constitution, because

3) The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) was held to be applicable against the federal government but NOT against the states, because

4) Congress overreached their powers because under Boerne v. Flores something about enforcement powers yadda yadda, SO

5) The substantive free exercise standard IS constitutional, but because Congress is not allowed to apply it to the states, the states can take it upon themselves to adopt that standard.

So this state constitutional amendment was proposed in order to bring state laws in line with the federal standard in determining if the government had infringed a citizen's free exercise rights. And this all came about because IIRC the Act that brought about this standard was about tribal rights to smoke peyote (or whatever you do to peyote) at religious ceremonies. Not quite letting Christians run stop lights or whatever absurd hypothetical was posed.

Things this amendment would have done:


Things this amendment would not do:

-Legalize blowing up abortion clinics because of a "sincerely held' belief*

-Institute Sharia law

-Allow legions of vigilante rabbis to roam the streets performing rogue circumcisions

-Let you do anything it says in the Bible, Koran, Torah, Necronomicon etc. that is currently criminal

-Allow you to hey hey, smoke weed every day because you are a member of the congregation of the Church of Cypress Hill

-Allow you to use large, stone wheels as currency because the "In God we Trust" part on the dollar goes against your Pastafarianism

-Let you own slaves (seriously? As a serious argument this is beyond absurd and even in jest it's so fucking hyperbolic it obscures the point, which is probably good as it was about the dumbest point ever made on Jezebel and that's saying a lot)

-Let you sacrifice your boss to Yog-Soggoth

-Ban bacon

-Round up all women of childbearing age and force them into a Handmaid's Tale-esque concubinage because Jesus or something.

*this is a term of art that is apparently misunderstood; believe me the Supreme Court has (SHOCKINGLY) addressed the fact that chaos would ensue if "sincerely held belief" were a purely subjective test, which is why proving a sincerely held belief has to be shown with additional objective means such as enumerated religious tenants, a history of the practice, etc. Granted this can be a sticky wicket but come ON the highest court in the land HAS NOTICED that letting everybody claim a sincere belief as a way of getting out of stuff would be troublesome. ffs.

As an atheist who fucking hates religion and prizes critical thinking, it really disheartens me to see those ostensibly on the sanity side of the game get all cray cray and knee-jerk on what really is a banal bit of procedure. There are SO MANY stupid and dangerous wacko religious things to get upset about, but you should be upset about the right ones and for the right reasons. Not this.