11 May 2009

Committee action, May 11: HB 340

HB 340 by Rep. Cameron Henry would support religious liberty. He said by using the First Amendment’s exact language, he said courts had too much latitude by recent court rulings that changed the interpretive test from a “compelling” to “rational interest.” This he said weakened the original intent of Louisiana citizens who approved the 1974 Constitution, so this amendment now was needed. Witnesses pointed out many other states had changed their constitutions or laws to reaffirm the “compelling interest” test for religious exercise, whereas if a law had a general applicability, it would use the “rational interest” test. What is a “religion” is not changed

Amendments made some alterations to language, mainly replacing the “interfere with the free exercise” to noninterference of “religious belief,” and was adopted without objection. Rep. John Bel Edwards wanted to know how this would impact believers’ desires not to work on certain days. Witnesses said current standards in this area should not be changed by it. Acting Rep. Greg Ernst said he was “troubled” by the amendment language that changed from the First Amendment, but said he would consult with Rep. Neil Abramson, who originally had requested the amending, prior to the floor debate.

Amended, the bill passed without objection.

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