A coalition that includes Colorado Family Action and the Colorado Catholic Conference has taken the first step toward amending the state constitution to prohibit the government from infringing on the religious liberty of an individual or a religious organization.
“We have heard in our work in the state that many Catholics and other people of faith are growing uneasy as they sense a loss of religious freedom,” said Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the state’s three Catholic dioceses.
Kraska, also a representative of a coalition called Coloradans for Liberty, said a ballot initiative to amend the constitution is being considered because of a general sense that religious freedom is eroding under governmental pressure.
Another coalition representative, Jessica Langfeldt, director of Colorado Family Action, a Focus on the Family affiliate, said taking the first step Monday — filing language with the Colorado Legislative Council — gives the coalition several weeks to determine whether its concerns are widely shared.
The ballot question asks whether the state constitution should include a section stating that government may not burden the right of a person or organization to act or to refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief unless the government has a compelling interest in infringing the act.
“People want the freedom to express their religious beliefs in all aspects of community life, not just in the privacy of their homes,” Kraska said.
Bruce DeBoskey, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he is concerned about a “hidden agenda behind the remarkably vague language.”
“We already have a First Amendment-guaranteed right of religious freedom, under both the U.S. and state constitutions,” DeBoskey said. “It’s not all clear what problem this is supposed to address.”
Douglas Napier, senior legal counsel with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, sponsored by church ministries to defend and advocate religious freedom, said attacks on religious liberties, in his group’s experience, have been directed predominantly against Christians.
In Colorado, Napier said, those attacks have included discrimination against churches in land use and suppression of students’ freedom of speech in valedictory addresses and other forums.
Thirteen states have adopted language similar to the proposed amendment, which echoes federal protections.
Napier said such amendments seek to expand rights of conscience in the workplace, such as protecting a doctor who refuses to perform abortions.
Courtesy of Denver Post at http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_14705537