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 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
(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
(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
(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, 209
Mich 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
(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
(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.