Meeting Public Comments

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A bill for an act prohibiting the burdening of a person’s free exercise of religion.(See SF 2284.)
Subcommittee members: Garrett-CH, Hogg, Williams
Date: Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Time: 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Location: Room G15
Comments Submitted:
The purpose of comments is to provide information to members of the subcommittee.
Names and comments are public records. Remaining information is considered a confidential record.

Brett Parker [American Atheists]
See attached testimony in opposition to SF2170.
Ryan Jayne [Freedom From Religion Foundation]
Please see attached pdf comment.
Carl Olsen []
If the exact same activity is being allowed for secular purposes, why on earth would it be prohibited for religious purposes? I thought this was already a constitutional right. This bill seems redundant. But, it is certainly worth repeating.
Pete McRoberts [American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa]
The American Civil Liberties Union is the countrys most successful defender of religious rights. We have seen governments all around the country attempt to degrade fundamental rights, and we fight them every step of the way. For that reason, we strongly agree with the motives and sentiment of this legislation. We believe that local governments should not have the power to arbitrarily restrict the rights of people to freely express their beliefs. We regrettably oppose this legislation on account of the way it is written. For example, a statutory provision of strict scrutiny as part of a defense to a judicial or administrative act does not do the same thing as a constitutional provision. We believe this segment of the bill would create a legal framework in which even the judicial middle management would have the power to survey or question the religious beliefs of people before them. Not their sincerity of a professed belief, but the religion itself. I believe the broadness of this legislation makes that inevitable, and believe that no government official should have that right. We are also frankly concerned about the judiciarys ability to correctly interpret the legislative intent of this language. For example, this language creates an affirmative defense that has successfully been used in other states when people violated child labor laws, for example. At the time the defense language was proposed several years ago, we realized immediately this would create an affirmative defense for specific crimes against children and adult women that cause significant bodily harm yet are also associated with certain established religious practices. This is not what we mean by protecting Iowans first amendment rights to free expression of religion.We are ready and willing to work with Legislators to help resolve Iowans concerns about local governments stepping on our fundamental rights. It happens regularly, and people are right to be concerned. As we as a state begin the process of looking back at what worked during our long emergency response to Covid, further limitations on governments may be necessary. We do want to make sure that a house of worship is not treated worse than a movie theater or that local finances cant be a determining factor in some emergency declaration in the future. So, while we cant support this, and we discourage Legislators advancing it, we would like to be a part of your next steps to protect Iowans rights of free expression, and in a way that prevents government officials from entangling themselves into religious doctrine as a matter of law. We will continue our work to protect this fundamental right and all fundamental rights on behalf of people who need help from government overreach.