Originally Sent: 1/16/2014

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
Home School Legal Defense Association

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Act To Restore Religious Freedom

Homeschooling in Maine

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Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

HSLDA recently learned that an excellent bill that would provide vital protection for religious freedom in Maine will face a crucial test today at 1:00 p.m. You can help!

A U.S. Supreme Court decision several years ago gave a green light for states to downgrade the amount of protection religious freedom receives. But the court left the door open for individual states to bring back the high level of protection that faith-in-action enjoyed before that.

That means it’s up to individual states to restore the level of protection that historically existed. LD 1428 will do that in Maine!

Action Requested

Before 12:30 p.m. today, send an email to any two of the committee members listed below. If you recognize your own senator or representative’s name, make sure you email him or her.

Your message can be as simple as, “Please vote YES on LD 1428. Please protect religious freedom from being downgraded.”

Contact Information—Judiciary Committee members

Senator Linda M. Valentino (D-York), Chair
SenLinda.Valentino@legislature.maine.gov

Senator John L. Tuttle, Jr. (D-York)
SenJohn.Tuttle@legislature.maine.gov

Senator David C. Burns (R-Washington)
SenDavid.Burns@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Charles R. Priest (D-Brunswick), Chair
RepCharles.Priest@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Kimberly J. Monaghan-Derrig (D-Cape Elizabeth)
RepKim.Monaghan-Derrig@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath)
RepJennifer.DeChant@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Matthew W. Moonen (D-Portland)
RepMatt.Moonen@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Stephen W. Moriarty (D-Cumberland)
repsteve.moriarty@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Lisa Renee Villa (D-Harrison)
RepLisa.Villa@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Jarrod S. Crockett (R-Bethel)
RepJarrod.Crockett@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Michael G. Beaulieu (R-Auburn)
RepMike.Beaulieu@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Anita Peavey Haskell (R-Milford)
RepAnita.Peaveyhaskell@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Stacey K. Guerin (R-Glenburn)
RepStacey.Guerin@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Wayne T. Mitchell (Penobscot Nation)
RepWayne.Mitchell@legislature.maine.gov

Background

Historically, government agencies could push aside someone’s right to exercise his religion only if the government had a super good reason (a “compelling” reason), and used the least restrictive method possible. But freedom lurched backward in 1990 when a U.S. Supreme Court case (Employment Division vs. Smith) treated this foundational right as if it were only ordinary—empowering government to trump your religious freedom for any merely “rational reason.”

And government encroachment almost always triumphs over the freedom of a citizen when “rational reason” is the test because it is ridiculously easy to show that a government restriction is just rational.

The public demanded change. HSLDA was in the forefront of the battle, and a federal law was passed and signed by President Clinton in 1993 to restore the historic level of protection. We thought the freedom to live out one’s faith was safe.

But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court shocked us again. In the City of Boerne case, it said the new federal law could not be used to stop individual states from violating the rights of citizens. This gave states the green light to downgrade your religious freedom to the lowest possible level.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed a law giving a select group of citizens the highest level of protection in their religious expression: prisoners! But the freedom of ordinary citizens was still in jeopardy.

The long-standing practice of pastor-laity confidentiality was repeatedly violated. A Catholic hospital was denied accreditation for refusing to teach abortion techniques. A church ministry to the homeless was forced to shut down because it was located on the second floor of a building with no elevator. A church was prohibited from feeding more than 50 people per day.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s City of Boerne decision left the door open for states individually to pass laws giving more protection. So now it’s up to states to stand up and be counted!

That is what LD 1428 does. It puts Maine on record as saying the freedom to practice one’s religion must be protected just as it was before 1990. It “levels the playing field” in conflicts between enormous government power and individual freedom. It gives you the same protection that prisoners have enjoyed for years.

Some might argue that we should just let “common law” keep on developing as it has. But this ignores the fact that the reason governments exist in the first place is to protect our rights (read the Declaration of Independence). It’s only when the legislature abdicates its duty to protect our rights that the job by default falls back into the lap of the courts. Yes, if the legislature is silent, the courts will fill the void with their own opinions. But that is the least democratic way to address the issue of rights.

You may be told that the Maine or U.S Constitution already protects religious expression. Unfortunately, neither one specifies whether religious freedom must be given the strong protection of a fundamental right, or whether it can be given the minimal protection of an ordinary right. LD 1428 fills that gap.

For more information on religious freedom restoration acts in general, visit our website.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom!

Sincerely Yours,

Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.,
Senior Counsel,
Home School Legal Defense Association

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

• • • •

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