Current Law: 51 Okl.St.Ann. § 251-258

Enacted: June 1, 2000

§ 251. Short title

This act may be cited as the “Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act”.

§ 252. Definitions

In this act:
1. “Demonstrates” means the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion under the standard of clear and convincing evidence are met;

2. “Exercise of religion” means the exercise of religion under Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;

3. “Fraudulent claim” means a claim that is dishonest in fact or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as to harass the opposing party;

4. “Frivolous claim” means a claim which lacks merit under existing law and which cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;

5. “Governmental entity” means any branch, department, agency, or instrumentality of state government, or any official or other person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision of this state;

6. “Prevails” means to obtain prevailing party status as defined by courts construing the federal Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and
7. “Substantially burden” means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.

§ 253. Burden upon free exercise of religion

A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, no governmental entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
B. No governmental entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is:
1. Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and
2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

§ 254. Correctional facility regulation–Compelling state interest

A state or local correctional facility’s regulation must be considered in furtherance of a compelling state interest if the facility demonstrates that the religious activity:

1. Sought to be engaged by a prisoner is presumptively dangerous to the health or safety of that prisoner; or
2. Poses a direct threat to the health, safety, or security of other prisoners, correctional staff, or the public.

§ 255. Construction

A. Nothing in this act1 shall be construed to:

1. Authorize any government entity to substantially burden any religious belief;
2. Authorize same sex marriages, unions, or the equivalent thereof; or
3. Affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of Article 1, Section 2, and Article 2, Section 5, of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, or the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion.

B. Granting governmental funds, benefits, or exemptions to the extent permissible under paragraph 3 of subsection A of this section shall not constitute a violation of this section. As used in this subsection, “granting government funds, benefits, or exemptions” shall not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions. This provision does not in and of itself require vouchers.

§ 256. Remedies–Costs–Attorney Fees

A. Any person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened by a governmental entity in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may obtain declaratory relief or monetary damages.
B. Any person who prevails in any proceeding to enforce this act against a governmental entity may recover reasonable costs and attorney fees.

§ 257. Frivolous or fraudulent claims

Any person found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have abused the protection of this act by filing a frivolous or fraudulent claim may be assessed the court costs of the governmental entity and may be enjoined from filing further claims under this act without leave of court.

§ 258. Governmental authority

Notwithstanding any provision of this act, a governmental entity has no less authority to adopt or apply laws and regulations in a nondiscriminatory manner concerning zoning, land use planning, traffic management, urban nuisance, or historic preservation, than the authority of the governmental entity that existed under the law prior to the passage of this act. This section does not affect the authority of a governmental entity to adopt or apply laws and regulations as that authority has been interpreted by any court.

2016 Pending Bills:

HB 1371 – An Act relating to the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act; amending 51 O.S. 2011, Section 252, which relates to definitions; adding certain definition; prohibiting state or subdivision from making certain claim under certain action; providing for codification; and providing an effective date. (Last Updated 2/25/15)

http://www.oklegislature.gov/Billinfo.aspx?Bill=HB1371

2015 Enrolled Legislation:

HB 1007 – An Act relating to marriage; prohibiting requirement of religious official to solemnize a marriage that violates their conscience or religious beliefs; providing for civil immunity; defining terms; providing for codification; and providing an effective date. (Final Version as of 4/23/15)

http://www.oklegislature.gov/Billinfo.aspx?Bill=HB1007

Bill gutted after legislation fails in Arizona

‘Religious freedom’ now aimed at higher education

Previously Introduced Legislation

2015:

S.B. 440 – Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act
H.B. 1125 – deleting issuance of marriage licenses; providing for marriage certificates and affidavits of common law marriage

SENATE BILL 440

By: Silk

AS INTRODUCED

An Act relating to religious freedom; creating the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015; defining terms; providing certain protections from governmental action for certain religious beliefs; stating protected actions; stating prohibited remedies and actions; providing defense to certain actions; setting dismissal and transfer procedure; prohibiting certain discovery during certain time; allowing certain attorney fees, costs and damages; ensuring governmental entity provides certain service under certain condition; providing severability; construing provisions; repealing 51 O.S. 2011, Sections 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257 and 258, which relate to the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act; providing for codification; and declaring an emergency.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:

SECTION 1.     NEW LAW     A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1850 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Oklahoma Religious Freedom Reformation Act of 2015”.

SECTION 2.    NEW LAW     A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1850.1 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

As used in this act:

  1. “Religious entity” means an organization, regardless of its not-for-profit or for-profit status, and regardless of whether its activities are deemed wholly or aptly religious, that is:
  2. a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society,
  3. an entity operated, supervised or controlled by, or connected with, a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society, or
  4. a privately-held business operating consistently with its sincerely held religious beliefs, with regard to any activity described in this act and amendments thereto; and
  5. “Governmental entity” means the executive, legislative, and judicial branches and any and all agencies, boards, commissions, departments, districts, authorities or other entities, subdivisions or part whatsoever of state and local government, as well as any person acting under color of law.

SECTION 3.     NEW LAW     A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1850.2 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex, gender or sexual orientation:

  1. Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges;
  2. Provide counseling, adoption, foster care, and other social services;
  3. Provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;
  4. Solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or
  5. Treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

SECTION 4.     NEW LAW     A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1850.3 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

  1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no refusal by an individual or religious entity to engage in any activity described in Section 3 of this act, and amendments thereto, shall result in:
  2. A civil claim or cause of action under state or local law based upon such refusal; or
  3. An action by any governmental entity to penalize, withhold benefits from, discriminate against or otherwise disadvantage any protected individual or religious entity, under any state or local law.
  4. Any individual or religious entity named in or subject to a civil action, an administrative action or any action by a governmental entity may immediately assert the protections provided in Section 3 of this act, and amendments thereto, or this section, as a defense by moving to dismiss such action. If the motion to dismiss is filed in an action before an administrative tribunal, within fifteen (15) days after filing such motion any party to the action may elect to transfer jurisdiction of the action to a district court with proper venue. Within sixty (60) days after the transfer of jurisdiction, the district court shall decide whether the claimed protection applies. The district court shall not permit any additional discovery or fact-finding prior to making its decision.
  5. If a governmental entity, or any person asserts a claim or cause of action, or takes any adverse action against an individual or religious entity in violation of subsection A of this section, the individual or religious entity shall be entitled, upon request, to recover all reasonable attorney fees, costs and damages such individual or religious entity incurred as a result of the violation.
  6. If an individual employed by a governmental entity or other non-religious entity invokes any of the protections provided in Section 3 of this act, and amendments thereto, as a basis for declining to provide a lawful service that is otherwise consistent with the entity’s duties or policies, the individual’s employer, in directing the performance of such service, shall otherwise ensure that the requested service is provided, if it can be done without undue hardship to the employer.

SECTION 5.     NEW LAW     A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1850.4 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

  1. If any word, phrase, clause or provision of this act, and any amendments thereto, or the application of any such word, phrase, clause or provision to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remaining provisions shall be given effect without the invalid portion and to this end the provisions of Sections 1 through 4 of this act, and amendments thereto, are severable.
  2. Nothing in Sections 1 through 4 of this act, and amendments thereto, shall be construed to allow any individual or entity acting under color of state law to perform any marriage prohibited by state law including, but not limited to, laws relating to plural marriage, incest, consanguinity and marriageable age.
  3. Nothing in Sections 1 through 4 of this act, and amendments thereto, shall be construed to authorize any governmental discrimination or penalty against any individual or religious entity based upon its performance, facilitation or support of any celebrations of same-gender unions or relationships.
  4. The provisions of Sections 1 through 4 of this act, and amendments thereto, shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of religious exercise, to the maximum extent permitted by their terms and by the constitution of this state and the United States of America.

SECTION 6.     REPEALER     51 O.S. 2011, Sections 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257 and 258, are hereby repealed.

SECTION 7. It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.


Oklahoma H.B. 1125 – deleting issuance of marriage licenses; providing for marriage certificates and affidavits of common law marriage

PDF: Oklahoma H.B. 1125 deleting issuance of marriage licenses; providing for marriage certificates and affidavits of common law marriage

Source: Oklahoma legislature 

2013-2014:

Pending Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act Modification: SB 1846

STATE OF OKLAHOMA

2nd Session of the 54th Legislature (2014)

SENATE BILL 1846 By: Treat

AS INTRODUCED

An Act relating to the Oklahoma Religious Freedom
Act; stating legislative findings; stating purposes
of act; amending 51 O.S. 2011, Sections 252 and 253,
which relate to definitions and burden upon free
exercise of religion; modifying definitions;
authorizing certain action; authorizing certain
relief; providing for codification; and providing an
effective date.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified
in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 251.1 of Title 51, unless there
is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
A. The Legislature finds that:
1. The framers of the United States Constitution, recognizing
free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its
protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
2. The framers of the Oklahoma Constitution, also recognizing
free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its
protection in the Oklahoma Constitution;
3. Laws and other state action “neutral” toward religion may
burden exercise of religion as surely as laws intended to interfere
with religious exercise;
4. State action should not burden exercise of religion without
compelling justification;
5. Prior to 1990, laws and other state action burdening
exercise of religion had to be justified by compelling
justification;
6. In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), the
Supreme Court significantly curtailed the requirement that laws and
other state action burdening the free exercise of religion be
justified by compelling justification;
7. Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal,
546 U.S. 418 (2006), indicates that legislative bodies may enact
statutory law for their jurisdictions requiring that laws and other
state action burdening the free exercise of religion be justified by
a compelling governmental interest. Many states have done so,
passing laws similar to this Act; and
8. The compelling interest test set forth in prior federal
court rulings and this act is a workable test for striking sensible
balances between religious liberty and competing governmental
interests.
B. The purposes of this Act are to:
1. Restore the compelling interest test and to guarantee its
application in all cases where the exercise of religion is burdened
by state action; and
2. Provide a claim or defense to a person or persons whose
exercise of religion is burdened by state action.
SECTION 2. AMENDATORY 51 O.S. 2011, Section 252, is
amended to read as follows:
Section 252. In this act:
1. “Demonstrates” means the burdens of going forward with the
evidence and of persuasion under the standard of clear and
convincing evidence are met;
2. “Exercise of religion” means the practice, observance and
exercise of religion under Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution
of the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, and
the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It
includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or refuse to act
in a manner substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held
religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or
central to a larger system of religious belief;
3. “Fraudulent claim” means a claim that is dishonest in fact
or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as
to harass the opposing party;
4. “Frivolous claim” means a claim which lacks merit under
existing law and which cannot be supported by a good faith argument
for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the
establishment of new law;
5. “Governmental entity” means any branch, department, agency,
or instrumentality of state government, or any official or other
person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision
of this state;
6. “Prevails” means to obtain prevailing party status as
defined by courts construing the federal Civil Rights Attorney’s
Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and
7. “Substantially burden” means to inhibit or curtail
religiously motivated practice directly or indirectly constrain,
inhibit, curtail or deny the exercise of religion by any person or
compel any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion and
includes, but is not limited to, withholding benefits, assessing
criminal, civil or administrative penalties or excluding from
governmental programs or access to governmental facilities.
SECTION 3. AMENDATORY 51 O.S. 2011, Section 253, is
amended to read as follows:
Section 253. A. Except as provided in subsection B of this
section, no governmental entity shall substantially burden a
person’s free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a
rule of general applicability.

B. No governmental entity shall substantially burden a person’s
free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of
the burden to the person is:
1. Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and
2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling
governmental interest.
C. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially
burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, in violation of
this act may assert such violation or impending violation as a claim
or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state
or a political subdivision is a party to the proceeding. The person
asserting such a claim or defense may obtain appropriate relief,
including relief against the state or its political subdivisions.
Appropriate relief includes, but is not limited to, injunctive or
declaratory relief, compensatory damages and attorney fees and
costs.
SECTION 4. This act shall become effective November 1, 2014.