Barak Richman criticizes legal grounds for “freedom restoration” laws

richman1Writing for the News & Observer, KIE Senior Fellow Barak Richman (Law) breaks down arguments that pit freedom of religion against civil rights that have spring forth around laws being proposed in many states. He says that the proposed North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act works against the balance of the First Amendment’s establishment and free exercise clauses.

The bill before the North Carolina legislature, by design, would empower and encourage parties to invoke religious differences into a much wider category of disputes, including any civil or commercial disputes that should not involve religious freedoms. A debtor might refuse to pay a corporation because the money might be used in a way that would offend the debtor’s religious conscience. Conventional property disputes between neighbors would invite religious liberty defenses. To be sure, many of these legal claims might be frivolous, but many will emerge from deeply held and sincere religious convictions. Yet courts will have to scrutinize each one.