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6/6/2006 9:50:54 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
New York--Calls Needed for Religious Freedom for Homeschoolers

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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June 6, 2006

New York--Calls Needed for Religious Freedom for Homeschoolers

Dear HSLDA members and friends:

Assembly Bill 10870, the Free Exercise of Religion bill, has been
introduced in the New York legislature by Speaker Sheldon Silver. If
passed, A.B. 10870 would protect religious freedom and expression at a
much higher level than it is now.

Once enacted into law the Free Exercise of Religion legislation should
be able to be used as a "religious exemption" for homeschool families
who are homeschooling because of their religious beliefs and
convictions. We are already using religious freedom acts like the ones
we helped pass in Florida and Pennsylvania to get religious exemptions
for families from their state homeschool law.

While the Assembly is likely to pass this legislation shortly the
Senate does not have a similar bill. Since the bill is sponsored in
the Assembly by Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, the bill must be sponsored
by a Republican in the Republican-controlled Senate to pass.

Since the New York legislature only has 10 more days in the
legislative session, we need your calls now!

Please call your state Senator and urge him or her to support the Free
Exercise of Religion bill. If your state senator is a Democrat calls
are not needed at this time.

Action Requested

1) If your state Senator is a Republican, please call both their local
district office as well as their Albany office with this message in
your own words:

"Please support religious freedom in New York and sponsor the Free
Exercise of Religion Bill. This bill has been introduced in the
Assembly as bill number 10870.

Please ensure that the state will not restrict our religious freedom
unless it is essential to a compelling governmental interest and the
least restrictive means possible."

Do not identify yourself as a homeschool parent; instead you can
simply identify yourself as a taxpaying citizen concerned about
religious freedom in New York.

To find out if your state senator is a Republican and their contact
information please enter your ZIP code on HSLDA's legislative toolbox
at http://www.hslda.org/toolbox . You will find your state Senator in
the right-hand column.

Background

On June 25, 1997, by a 6-3 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
The City of Boerne v. Flores that the 1993 federal Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (RFRA) was unconstitutional. By doing this, the Court
gave the lowest level of protection to religious liberty--one of the
foundational freedoms of homeschooling. Under this minimal standard,
the state can override a homeschooler's or other citizen's right to
freely exercise his religious beliefs merely by proving that its
regulation is "reasonable." Since nearly all state regulations can be
determined to be "reasonable," Christians will lose.

Since the devastating U.S. Supreme Court Boerne decision, state and
federal courts across the country have diminished religious freedom in
many ways. For example:

> The longstanding practice of pastor-laity confidentiality has been
repeatedly violated;

> A Catholic hospital was denied accreditation for refusing to teach
abortion techniques;

> There have been conflicts with zoning ordinances, such as the forced
termination of a church ministry to the homeless because it was
located on the second floor of a building with no elevator; and

> A church was prohibited from feeding more than 50 people per day.

Passage of Assembly Bill 10870 will raise the standard of protection
for religious freedom in New York for individuals, homeschool parents,
churches, and all who desire to freely exercise their religious
beliefs.

If passed, the New York RFRA will restore the high standard of
protection for religious liberty previously guaranteed in the federal
RFRA and earlier Supreme Court decisions. Under the New York RFRA, if
an individual's religious belief is in conflict with a state
regulation, the state will have to prove, with evidence, that its
regulation is essential to fulfill a compelling state interest and is
the least restrictive means of doing so. If the state fails to carry
the burden, the regulation must give way to the individual's religious
freedom. Restoring this level of protection for religious freedom will
simply "even the playing field."

For more detailed information on Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,
visit our website at: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3095 .

Don't let one decision by the U.S. Supreme Court denigrate this
priceless inalienable right. Urge your state senator now to restore
protection for religious liberty in New York by sponsoring Assembly
Bill 10870!

If you are not yet a member of HSLDA and would like to help us fight
for greater homeschool freedom in New York please visit
http://www.hslda.org/join/apply.asp .

Sincerely,


Thomas J. Schmidt
HSLDA Staff Attorney

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