July 14, 2009

House Bill 340: Religious Freedom Amendment

Representative Cameron Henry

Representative Cameron Henry introduced a Religious Freedom Amendment to the Louisiana constitution earlier this year. House Bill 340 is an excellent bill that, if passed, will strengthen religious freedom in Louisiana. Under this bill the government would be prohibited from burdening the free exercise of religion unless they can demonstrate the government “has a compelling governmental interest in infringing upon the specific (religious) expression” and there is “no other less burdensome alternative.”

However, time is running out. Your calls are needed now to help ensure H.B. 340 is passed before the legislative session ends this week. Please call both your state representative and senator. The bill should be voted by tomorrow and we expect a very close vote in the House.

4/13/2009(House) Prefiled
4/13/2009(House) Under the rules, provisionally referred to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure
4/18/2009(House) First appeared in the Interim Calendar on 4/17/2009
4/27/2009(House) Read by title, under the rules, referred to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure
5/11/2009(House) Reported with amendments (11-0) (Regular)
5/12/2009(House) Read by title, amended, ordered engrossed, passed to 3rd reading—regular calendar
5/14/2009(House) Scheduled for floor debate on 5/18/2009
5/18/2009(House) Read third time by title, amended, roll called on final passage, yeas 72, nays 25. The bill, having received two-thirds vote of the elected members, was finally passed, title adopted, ordered to the Senate
5/19/2009(Senate) Received in the Senate. Rules suspended. Read first and second time by title and referred to the Committee on Judiciary A
6/2/2009(Senate) Reported favorably
6/3/2009(Senate) Read by title and referred to the Legislative Bureau
6/4/2009(Senate) Reported without Legislative Bureau amendments, read by title and passed to a third reading
6/10/2009(Senate) Senate floor amendments read and adopted. The amended bill was read by title and finally passed by a vote of 27 yeas and 8 nays. The bill was ordered returned to the House. Motion to reconsider tabled.
6/10/2009(House) Received from the Senate with amendments
6/11/2009(House) Scheduled for concurrence on 6/17/2009
6/17/2009(House) Read by title, returned to the calendar
6/17/2009(House) Notice given
6/17/2009(House) Scheduled for concurrence on 6/18/2009
6/18/2009(House) Called from the calendar
6/18/2009(House) Read by title, roll called, yeas 53, nays 26. The Senate amendments, not having received two-thirds vote of the elected members, were rejected. Conference committee appointment pending
6/18/2009(House) House conferees appointed: Henry, Tim Burns, and Edwards
6/18/2009(Senate) Notice House rejected Senate amendments
6/18/2009(Senate) Notice House rejected Senate amendments
6/18/2009(Senate) Notice House conferees appointed.
6/25/2009Legislature adjourned Sine Die

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA supports H.B. 340

Action Requested:
No action needed.

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 home schooling. Under this minimal standard, the state can override a homeschooler 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 House Bill 340 will raise the standard of protection for religious freedom in Louisiana for individuals, homeschool parents, churches, and all who desire to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

If passed, the Louisiana Religious Freedom Amendment will restore the high standard of protection for religious liberty previously guaranteed in the federal RFRA and earlier Supreme Court decisions. Under the Louisiana Religious Freedom Amendment, 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.”

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

 Other Resources

E-lert—June 24, 2009: Urgent—Please Call Now to Help Pass Religious Freedom Amendment!

Bill Text    (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History