January 28

Religious freedom bill puts burden on state

LETTER

Should government be allowed to force people into doing things against their religious principles?

Consider New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin’s situation. In 2006, she declined to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony, citing her Biblical beliefs. The couple sued. It seems they felt compelled to push their viewpoint upon Huguenin, despite her deeply held convictions. Huguenin has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her challenge to the law.

Was the photographer’s inaction discrimination? Perhaps, but perhaps not. What of the photographer’s rights? Doesn’t she have the right to religious freedom, to follow her religion and its teachings?

As the saying goes, one person’s rights end where another’s begins.

One option was that the couple employ a different photographer, taking their money and business elsewhere. Huguenin’s religious rights still would be protected, and the couple still records their event. This would have been the least restrictive solution.

Despite First Amendment confirmation of religious freedom, individuals must secure their religious rights in the courtroom. The burden of proof, however, should be upon the prosecutor, not the defendant. In other words, a state’s action should not burden exercise of religion upon an individual without a compelling interest.

Let’s put a little different spin on it. What if a pro-life photographer refused a contract to record a partial-birth abortion? Should the photographer be mandated into the contract? I think most people would say no. Well, the principle is identical in Huguenin’s situation.

The purpose of L.D. 1428 is to place the burden of proof upon the state, to prove its action is essential to a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. It will help anyone to freely exercise their religion, whatever that religion may be.

I urge others to contact their senator and representative to show their support.

Greg PaquetSmithfield
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