2015 Pending Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act

SENATE BILL No. 4 (View Bill Text as PDF)

January 20, 2015, Introduced by Senator SHIRKEY and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

A bill to limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion; to set forth legislative findings; to provide for asserting a burden on exercise of religion as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding; and to provide remedies.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:

Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Michigan religious freedom restoration act”.

Sec. 2. The legislature finds and declares all of the
following:

(a) The free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and unalienable right secured by article 1 of the state constitution of 1963 and the first amendment to the United States constitution.

(b) Laws neutral toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise.

(c) Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.

(d) In 1993, the congress of the United States enacted the religious freedom restoration act to address burdens placed on the exercise of religion in response to the United States supreme court’s decision in Employment Division v Smith, 494 US 872 (1990), which virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion.

(e) In City of Boerne v P.F. Flores, 521 US 507 (1997), the United States supreme court held that the religious freedom restoration act of 1993 infringed on the legislative powers reserved to the states under the United States constitution.

(f) The compelling interest test set forth in prior court rulings, including Porth v Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, 209Mich App 630 (1995), is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing governmental interests in this state.

Sec. 3. The purposes of this act are the following:

(a) To guarantee application of the compelling interest test, as recognized by the United States supreme court in Sherbert v Verner, 374 US 398 (1963); Wisconsin v Yoder, 406 US 205 (1972); and Gonzales v O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 US 418 (2006), to all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened by government.

(b) To provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.

Sec. 4. As used in this act:

(a) “Demonstrates” means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

(b) “Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion, including an act or refusal to act, that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.

(c) “Government” means any branch, department, agency, division, bureau, board, commission, council, authority, instrumentality, employee, official, or other entity of this state or a political subdivision of this state, or a person acting under color of law.

Sec. 5. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(2) Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in that particular instance is both of the following:

(a) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.

(b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(3) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and obtain appropriate relief, including equitable relief, against government.

(4) A court or tribunal may award all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney fees, to a person who prevails against government under this section.

Sec. 6. (1) Section 5 applies to all laws of this state and of a political subdivision of this state, and the implementation of those laws, whether statutory or otherwise and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this act, unless the law explicitly excludes application by reference to this act.

(2) This act shall be construed in favor of broad protection of religious exercise to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this act, the state constitution of 1963, and the United States constitution.

(3) Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any burden on any religious belief.

(4) Nothing in this act shall be construed to preempt or repeal any law that is equally or more protective of religious exercise than this act.

(5) Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of the United States constitution or the state constitution of 1963 that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion. Granting government funding, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under those constitutional provisions, is not a violation of this act. As used in this subsection, the term “granting”, used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, does not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.

Sec. 7. If any provision of this act or any application of such a provision to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this act and the application of the provision to any other person or circumstance is not affected.

Source: Michigan Legislature

Previously Introduced Legislation

2014:

  • Michigan HB 5958 – A bill to limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion; to set forth legislative findings; to provide for asserting a burden on exercise of religion as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding; and to provide remedies.
  • HR 400 – A resolution to memorialize the Congress of the United States to enact legislation that would prohibit for-profit employers from using religious beliefs to deny employees coverage for contraception or any other vital health service required by federal law.

News

Erin Lacy, Supporters: Next fight is for civil rights in Michigan, Lansing State Journal

While Friday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage marked a day of celebration for many, it also intensified their concern about civil rights among LGBT people and religious people. “I married people today, but in Michigan they can still get fired from their job for being gay,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said. “So we […]

Jonathan Oosting, Michigan Senate gives blessing to religious objection LGBT adoption bills, M Live

Private faith-based adoption agencies that receive state funding but choose to deny service to gay parents on religious grounds have won the blessing of Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature. The state Senate, in an unexpected and unannounced move, took up religious objection adoption legislation on Wednesday, approving the three-bill package in a series of 26-12 votes. One Republican, Sen. […]

Anti-gay adoption bill another shameful moment for Michigan, Detroit Free Press

Here’s an idea. How about other faiths or ethical folks that don’t believe in discrimination take on this righteous mission?

Mark Yapching, Michigan governor vows to veto religious freedom bill unless civil rights are protected, Society

Michigan governor vows to veto religious freedom bill unless civil rights are protected

David Eggert, Gay marriage may affect discrimination, religion bills, Associated

Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to resuscitate legislation that would protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination, while LGBT advocates explore asking voters to pass the bill since it’s unlikely to clear the GOP-led Legislature. Read more: Gay marriage may affect discrimination, religion bills.

Highly Controversal Michigan Religious Freedom Bill Re-Introduced

SENATE BILL No. 4 January 20, 2015, Introduced by Senator SHIRKEY and referred to the Committee on Judiciary. A bill to limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion; to set forth legislative findings; to provide for asserting a burden on exercise of religion as a claim or defense in any judicial […]

Jocelyn Floyd, Separate myth from fact in religious freedom act, The Detriot News

Typical defense: mentions compelling int test. Hides least restrictive means

Kathleen Gray, Michigan religious freedom bill stalls in lame-duck session, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed the House but is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate this year. Many thanks due to LGBT community for giving all those harmed by religious actors breathing space in MI.

Randi Shaffer, Union Township voices support for LGBT equality following House religious freedom bill, The Morning Sun

Good to see tolerant people in Mich speak up

Jonathan Oosting, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger seeks to pair gay rights bill with ‘religious freedom’ act, MLive.com

Very bad idea