SECTION I. The amendment shall be known as and may be cited as the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.
SECTION II. The Legislature makes the following findings concerning religious freedom:
(1) The framers of the United States Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the framers of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, also recognizing this right, secured the protection of religious freedom in Article I, Section 3.
(2) Federal and state laws "neutral" toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise.
(3) Governments should not burden religious exercise without compelling justification.
(4) In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), the United States Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion.
(5) The compelling interest test as set forth in prior court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing governmental interests in areas ranging from public education (pedagogical interests and religious rights, including recognizing regulations necessary to alleviate interference with the educational process versus rights of religious freedom) to national defense (conscription and conscientious objection, including the need to raise an army versus rights to object to individual participation), and other areas of important mutual concern.
(6) Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C., § 2000bb, to establish the compelling interest test set forth in prior federal court rulings, but in City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997), the United States Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional stating that the right to regulate was retained by the states.
SECTION III. The purpose of the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment is to guarantee that the freedom of religion is not burdened by state and local law; and to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious freedom is burdened by government.
SECTION IV. As used in this amendment, the following words shall have the following meanings:
(1) DEMONSTRATES. Meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
(2) FREEDOM OF RELIGION. The free exercise of religion under Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.
(3) GOVERNMENT. Any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under the color of law) of the State of Alabama, any political subdivision of a state, municipality, or other local government.
(4) RULE. Any government statute, regulation, ordinance, administrative provision, ruling guideline, requirement, or any statement of law whatever.
SECTION V. (a) Government shall not burden a person's freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).
(b) Government may burden a person's freedom of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(c) A person whose religious freedom has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.
SECTION VI. (a) This amendment applies to all government rules and implementations thereof, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this amendment.
(b) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.
(c) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution permitting the free exercise of religion or prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion, or those provisions of Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, regarding the establishment of religion.
SECTION VII. (a) This amendment shall be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial and deterrent purposes.
(b) If any provision of this amendment or its application to any particular person or circumstance is held invalid, that provision or its application is severable and does not affect the validity of other provisions or applications of this amendment. (Amendment 622; Proposed by Act 98-409, submitted at the Nov. 3, 1998, election, and proclaimed ratified Jan. 6, 1999, Proclamation Register No. 9, p. 387).