Louisiana’s lawmakers should not let the bigots and those whose faiths are by convenience win by failing to pursue legislation to clarify protection of religious freedom.
State Rep. Mike Johnson, a foremost legal authority on religion and the First Amendment, is considering a bill that would make changes to Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. It largely mimics the federal law enacted in 1993, because a court ruling a few years later said the federal law could not apply to states. The law mandates that any government action that circumscribes practice of religious belief had to show a compelling interest to do so and in the least restrictive way.
Controversy over similar laws and changes to them in other states have arisen this year with an expansion of the definition, in the context of Louisiana’s version, of the concept of the “person.” Presently, that means consideration of religious rights of individuals and religious organizations. That definition would be expanded to include businesses as well, the impetus for this being a past U.S. Supreme Court decision signaling business transactions could be included in this calculus and whether this summer the Court conjures up protection to individuals on the basis of attitudes and behaviors other than those related to religious or political beliefs, namely practicing homosexuality, through a redefinition of marriage that prohibits states from confining it to between a single man and a single woman. Already in a majority of states same-sex marriages legally can be performed, in most instances forced upon the state by judicial fiat, meaning that the state may compel violation of conscience.