January 30, 2023

An executive order ensures enforcement of the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.

Republican Kay Ivey, Gov. of Alabama, on Friday signed an executive order protecting religious freedom in the state.

The executive order ensures enforcement of the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.

The Amendment to the State Constitution, passed by state legislatures in 1998, guarantees freedom from state coercion in violation of one’s religion for all individuals and businesses holding state licenses, and for all government contractors, employees, and recipients of grants and benefits .

“As I have promised, under my oversight, our state government will always reflect the values ​​of our people,” said Ivey, who has served as governor since 2017. “Religious freedom is the cornerstone of the American way of life, and as Governor I will always protect the rights of Alabamaans and ensure they are free to practice their faith as provided in the Constitution.”

Donald Carson, director of communications for the Diocese of Birmingham, welcomed the governor’s action.

“Catholics in the Diocese of Birmingham, which includes central and northern Alabama, are blessed to live and work in this state with such a strong affirmation of religious liberty,” Carson told CNA.

Religious Liberty in the States, a database of religious freedom in the United States maintained by the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy, ranked Alabama 12th for religious freedom in 2022. One of the determining factors in the organization’s action was the existence of Alabama’s Religious Liberty Amendment.

Twenty-three states have passed state religious freedom amendments since the 1997 Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was found unconstitutional by a federal court as applied to states.

According to Becket, a religious freedom law firm, state RFRAs “create a level playing field in court for people with deeply rooted religious beliefs.”

RFRAs are designed to protect all religious minorities, Becket explains on his website. The law itself was originally created, Becket points out, after the state of Oregon withheld unemployment benefits from Native American counselors who were fired for using peyote in their religious ceremonies

On October 15, 2019, a federal district court in Texas ruled that the “transgender mandate” in the Affordable Care Act violated federal RFRA. In his decision, Judge Reed O’Connor said that the refusal of providers and insurers to conduct or pay for transgender procedures was an exercise of their religious freedom.

And in a similar case Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, on August 26, 2022, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision finding that the Department of Health and Human Services violated the RFRA. The decision protects the religious freedom of doctors and hospitals to treat patients according to their professional judgment and religious beliefs.

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