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May 14, 2015 12:00 pm
NC Family president John Rustin talks with Kellie Fiedorek, litigation staff counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), about the importance of Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) laws, and why North Carolina needs a state RFRA to strengthen religious liberty protections for all its citizens.
This is family policy matter program is produced by the North Carolina family policy Council of profamily research and education organization dedicated to strengthening and preserving the family and up from the studio here is John Rustin, president of the North Carolina family policy Council, thank you for joining us this week.
Profamily policy matters.
I am delighted to have a dork on the program with Kelly is litigation, staff counsel for the alliance.
Defending freedom or ADF and its Washington DC regional service center where she is an invaluable member of ADF's center for marriage and family, Kelly has appeared in numerous media outlets including Fox News, NPR and BBC Kelly's altar of the feature article in the spring 2015 issue of the North Carolina family policy Council's quarterly magazine family North Carolina in order to be talking with Kelly today about some of the important issues she raises in her excellent article which is entitled religious liberty under fire while North Carolina can't wait to protect free speech and free exercise. Kelly, thanks so much for being with us today. Thanks Don for having me on the hair well were so grateful for you and for all your great work all the time and attention that you give the North Carolina in recent weeks working on religious freedom restoration act here in the state. Now Kelly in your article. You begin with a number of examples from states across the nation, including North Carolina where religious liberty has been under attack, give us if you would may be the top three examples from your article really highlight the increasing attacks on religious liberty of people of faith when one specific area that we seen a growing conflict between the government and and religious freedom. School campuses where where students are on track and in terms of their ability to laugh and think freely and when from North Carolina where the ethical administration. I told the young girl that she cannot wear a pro-life T-shirt to school. She was just quietly handing out flyers to interested students during during noninstructional time as part of her participation and her life day in silent solidarity but the principle of air confiscated the flyers and to initiate a cover up her shirt and in her freedom to do to express her beliefs about the dignity insanity of life. I was was impeded and was infringed in that particular example seen growing threats to to those who to believe and seek to live according to that belief that that marriage is something sacred that the children deserve a mom and dad and that there is something very unique and special about the marital relationship. And another example comes from Washington state where a seven-year-old florist bearing assessment currently finds herself in her 40 year career as a floral artist endangered. I simply because she referred a long time finding customer to another florist for floral design because she cannot participate and support his same-sex wedding and they Washington state Atty. Gen. has now turned that decision to celebrate and and publicly denounced her and is now suing her and her both her personal and professional capacities as she stands to lose everything she owns her savings at her home simply because her belief about marriage happens to differ from that which the government is trying to support.
So these are real threats that were starting to see more and more arise as government ideology conflicts with every citizens freedom to live and work according to their beliefs about the worsening of increasing hostility toward religious expression in America today across the country think will be interesting for listeners to go back and review a little bit. The history of the religious Freedom restoration act which was a federal law that was passed in 1993 and this is really been the basis for states as we seen growing hostilities toward religious expression and enacting federal referral like legislation, but on the state level. Telus Kelly little bit about the history of the federal religious freedom restoration act, what its purpose is and what it does today 1990, the court had protected religious freedom with the highest level of review that a court can rely upon. Because when government seeks to threaten or undermine fundamental freedoms such as religious freedom quite hatchet to weigh and make the government approved by the highest level that that was necessary action to take. But in 1990, the US Supreme Court financially weekend those constitutional protections for religious freedom and subsequently Congress site act to correct that weakening, bypassing the federal religious freedom restoration act, as you said in in 1993 and so Fen/Phen multiple states now 21 states have have followed suit to ensure that when the government tries to force you to violate your conscience. Highlight your beliefs.
You have an ability to get into court and ensure that the government only violate your belief that haven't really really good reason for doing so. And Kelly, as you point out in your article to religious freedom restoration is guided some important religious freedom rulings by the US Supreme Court, including the somewhat recent decision in the Hobby lobby Conestoga wood case tell us about the case briefly, and more importantly how good the federal river influence the Supreme Court ruling was that being the case involved on cue family businesses that had sincerely held beliefs about the dignity of life and did not and could not comply with the government mandate that day. I provide and pay for abortion inducing drugs and their employees health plans and so I do Hines which is that the family behind the cost of a case there there Mennonite family name build cabinets across the country and they are peaceloving people. But when the government decided to try to threaten their very beliefs about the sacredness and dignity of every human life. They filed a lawsuit in federal court and were able to rely on telegraph Avenue as their defense and ultimately whine when the Supreme Court said you know the government cannot come in and force you to do this as other means available for the government to achieve its alleged interests in for abortion inducing drugs that does not necessitate requiring family-owned businesses to violate the very tenets of their beliefs and and that which guides their lifestyle with a true victory for both Conestoga and Hobby lobby to know that they would be protected under under this line. Thankfully, the US Supreme Court found support for the family-owned businesses that they can and should be able to live without government coercion will absolutely melt clearly before the roofer does have certain limitations when it comes to its application to the states, which is why several states. 21.
As you mentioned have also enacted their own state-level roof or walls tell us about 7 W important for states to these laws on the state level to help protect religious freedom of citizens within the individual states because that when Congress passed federal rest.
Try it originally applied to the states, but then subsequently, the Supreme Court says that it can only apply to federal government action seeking to force individuals or family businesses as the court may clear this past summer, and in Conestoga at the government can't force them to violate their conscience, but when that decision came down state and local government could still force that it is the state level to violate their conscience of the folks in the state of were vulnerable and so now 21 states have adopted this law that higher level of review to ensure that that citizens. The government tries to come in and enforce you to to violate your conscience. You get it day in court. You get to have that fair hearing where you can defend yourself and and and argue that look the government trying to come in and and violate the very tenets of of what I believe and never fret over the past 20 years we've seen it benefit those in the Native American community's religious beliefs require them to have longer hair so the children in public schools in Texas. Little boys have been able to have slightly longer hair in public school just because I feel that's consistent with their with their religious beliefs wasting reference just recently benefit benefit one of our clients in the state of Kentucky, a printer who was against his conscience to print certain messages on his T-shirt and when asked to print a message that advanced same-sex relationships. He relied on reference here to defend himself and recently, the court said that yes he does indeed have the freedom to to print and to speak and to promote those messages that are consistent with his conscience. So river helps a lot of people with a lot of different belief backgrounds to stay true to that which is is important to them that which guides their life and and free from the government picking and choosing which beliefs are permitted and which ones are not very helpful! Yolanda does not presently have religious freedom restoration law, employees bills have been introduced in both the statehouse and the state Senate that would enact a roofer in mortar. A lot of those bills have yet to see action in the general assembly.
Although they have been the subject of a good bit of debate and attention and are you and others with the lots defending freedom have been providing a wealth of incredibly valuable information and insight are ensuring that information with our state lawmakers to help them understand exactly what roofer is exactly what it does and exactly what it does not do as we've heard from opponents of river here in North Carolina. Some have argued that religious liberty is already addressed in the state constitution and because of the state level roofer bill or statute is not necessary. Why do you believe this is not the case that there are unclear protections currently in North Carolina for for religious freedom and and fitted in the North Carolina are are very vulnerable right now but Kellan only wanted to states in the entire Southeast has not adopted this this important law and there's a lot of misinformation out there and while the North Carolina Constitution is very strong and very well worded. Unfortunately, because of the US Supreme Court decision from 1990 that has left it unclear whether North Carolina courts will still provide that strong protection so that's why the religious freedom restoration act as is needed in North Carolina to essentially give legal key to the competition. You have to ensure that those constitutional protections that that are guaranteed to North Carolinians to make sure that the court actually properly examine burdens on those on this freedom so you look at the court cases specific to North Carolina only reveals a very strong cloud of uncertainty as to how the courts will examine government burdens on religious freedom. Clearly one of the more popular arguments that we've heard from opponents of real fruit is good and we heard this and other states like Indiana Arizona is that these religious freedom restoration act would actually legalize discrimination and allow business owners to refuse service to customers at will. Is this true no not not only at been really unfortunate that people are starting things that are felt so egregiously false. The lot doesn't allow anyone to harm any person or any group.
The law is meant to protect every citizen, regardless of political affiliation, orientation, religious background or our belief that it in fact it was, he really prevents the government from harming citizens without proving in court that that harming them or burying them was was necessary for this. This Bob really does protect every person's freedom from government treatment intrusion does not trump card.
It simply a balancing test that says look at the government tried to overreach an unreasonable fashion and tried to force you to live in a way that inconsistent with your belief. I didn't have really really good reason for doing so.
Like security or public safety or something like that.
Then the government should be able to to do that, that it really allows the courts the way important government interest with the freedom of every single citizen.
Well, it has been very fresh characterizations in the misinformation that has been put out in other states and we seen the same thing in North Carolina Bob opponents so we are going to continue to encourage citizens across the state, or legislative leaders or governor to really is you so took a hard and fast.
Look at this legislation and hopefully prevail upon them to do a very necessary thing and not religious freedom restoration act in North Carolina killing were unfortunately nearly out of town for this week I want to thank you so much for all of your hard work on this critically important issue and for contributing the feature article for the current edition of family North Carolina magazine dork.
Thank you again so much for your time and for all that you and lots defending freedom due to protect religious liberty across town, to matters information and analysis of the North Carolina family policy Council join us weekly discussion on policy issues affecting the family. If you have questions or comments please… 919807081 or visit our website and see family doctor watching