February 1, 2008

Senate Bill 112: Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Senator Scott Renfroe and Representative Kevin Lundberg

Restricts a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity demonstrates that the application of the burden to the person is both essential to furthering a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of doing so.

HSLDA Attorney Tj Schmidt testified before the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during its February 12 hearing and explained the history, constitutionality, and need for a religious freedom act in Colorado. Senator Scott Renfroe did an excellent job explaining the bill and how it would have helped people of all faith in Colorado. Jim Paff of Colorado Family Action and Jenny Craska of Colorado Catholic Conference also testified in support of the bill.

Nonetheless, the three Democrat Senators, Abel Tapia, Chris Romer, and Sue Windels, all voted against religious freedom. They agreed with the opposition testimony by the Gay, Lesbian, TransGender Association representative who stated that providing religious freedom protection to Colorado citizens was “an attempt to not comply with current gay protection laws, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed last session.”

It is a sad day in Colorado when the legislature will not even vote to protect religious freedom. However, we are thankful that so many homeschoolers cared enough to try to make a difference.

1/30/2008(Senate) Introduced, Assigned to State, Veterans & Military Affairs
2/11/2008(Senate) Committee hearing, failed 3-2

HSLDA’s Position:
HSLDA supports this bill.

Action Requested:
None requested at this time.

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 long-standing 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 S.B. 112 will raise the standard of protection for religious freedom in Colorado for individuals, homeschool parents, churches, and all who desire to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

If passed, the Colorado RFRA will restore the high standard of protection for religious liberty previously guaranteed in the federal RFRA and earlier Supreme Court decisions. Under the Colorado 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 protection for religious freedom will simply “even the playing field.”

For a more detailed information on Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, visit our Issues Library page about religious freedom.

Don’t let one decision by the U.S. Supreme Court denigrate this inalienable right. Urge your state representative now to restore protection for religious liberty in Colorado by supporting the Colorado RFRA!

 Other Resources

E-lert—February 6, 2008—Colorado: Need Your Attendance at Hearing for Religious Freedom Act

E-lert—February 12, 2008—Colorado: Religious Freedom Act Defeated

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History