Support HB1624 Strengthen Religious Protection

Written by  on February 8, 2014 

Necessary Action

Secure a hearing for HB1624 before the House Judiciary Committee from Rep. Karl Rhoads.

Synopsis

The Hawaii Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“Little RFRA”) of 2014 would restrict government actions against people of faith by applying the “compelling interest” test to withstand legal challenges against religious liberties.  For more detailed information, please read the “suggested template” linked above, or see the supplemental information at the bottom of this post.

Objectives

  • To obtain passage and ratification of “Little RFRA” (HB1624) by the 2014 Hawaii State Legislature.
  • To obtain a hearing for HB1624 before the House Judiciary Committee.

Take Action

  1. Email: (We are working to have a web-based form available to simplify submitting letters of support, but it is not currently available.)  Send an email to Rep. Karl Rhoads (reprhoads@capitol.hawaii.gov), but also carbon copy (CC) the message to allreps@capitol.hawaii.gov.  Be sure to fill in the subject field.  You can copy/paste the suggested template in the body of the message or you can write your own message.  While not required, it is highly recommended that you list your address, city and zip code at the bottom of the message so that you can be verified by your elected representative.
  2. Collect letters of support: Some churches or groups may find it easier to print the suggested template at the top of the page and print copies to be signed.  These letters of support should be delivered promptly to the office of Rep. Karl Rhoads (State Capitol, Room 302).  Always keep a copy when possible in the event that the original letters disappear at the State Capitol.  Because time is of the essence, packets of letters should be delivered promptly, and preferably by Monday (February 10th) morning at the latest so that they can be considered.
  3. Call Rep. Rhoads: Call the office of Rep. Karl Rhoads (586-6180) to let him know that you would like him to give HB1624 a hearing before the “First Lateral Filing deadline”.
  4. Call your representative: Call the office of your own representative and let them know that you would like HB1624 to receive a hearing before the “First Lateral Filing deadline”, and you would like them to ask Rep. Rhoads to give the bill a hearing.  If you are not sure who your representative is, please go to http://capitol.hawaii.gov/findleg.aspx and follow the instructions.  Your representative’s office phone number can be found there.

Supplemental Information

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) was originally passed by Congress in 1993.  The vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives was nearly unanimous, with both Democrats and Republicans voting to pass the measure.  RFRA was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.  All four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation voted to pass RFRA – this included the late Senator Daniel Inouye, and our current governor Neil Abercrombie.

In its Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Supreme Court set a standard for evaluating when government should be allowed to interfere or burden the free exercise of religion.  This ensured that government had to have a “compelling interest” to interfere with the free exercise of religion.  While RFRA made this compelling interest test the standard for the federal government, it was found that could not be applied to state laws.

In response, eighteen states have so far introduced state-level versions of RFRA (“Little RFRA”) to ensure that their protections for the free exercise of religion are protected by the same standard used in federal laws.  These states include:

Alabama Arizona Connecticut Florida Idaho Illinois Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Missouri New Mexico Oklahoma Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina Texas Tennessee Virginia

HB1624 would add a simplified Little RFRA to Hawaii’s laws that would prevent state government and its institutions from interfering with the free exercise of religion.  While the Legislature claimed it inserted provisions to protect the free exercise of religion when they passed same-sex marriage, the provisions that were included were already covered by state law.  Both state and federal protections already existed that ensured that no clergy member would have to sanction a marriage that violated their beliefs, and similar protections that extended this to churches.  The Legislature had an opportunity to provide meaningful protections by exempting churches from the public accommodations clause, however, both Sen. Clayton Hee and Rep. Karl Rhoads did not add those protections to the same-sex marriage legislation.

HB1624 is an opportunity to protect our free exercise of religion from undue government intrusion.  In a secular society where churches are being threatened for practicing in public school or university facilities and where people of faith are persecuted for praying in public, the protections afforded in HB1624 are essential.

Passing legislation is a long and arduous process that will require a lot of effort from all people of faith.  If we are successful in getting HB1624 a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, there will be many more battles where people of faith will receive a call to arms.

Category : HB1624PolicySupport