Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal counsel Greg Chafuen says HB 1136 ensures that North Dakotans are free to live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust government punishment.
When Governor Doug Burgum (R-North Dakota) signed it into law, North Dakota became the 24th state in the nation to protect religious freedom.
"States are becoming increasingly involved in people's everyday lives and … increasingly less accommodating of people's religious freedom rights," Chafuen observes. "What I think happened in North Dakota, just like we saw in South Dakota and Montana two years ago and in West Virginia this year, the state decided to make sure that people's rights or religious freedom won't be interfered with by the government unless the government has a very compelling reason to do so."
He says citizens should not be left defenseless when their government attempts to burden their ability to live and worship according to their faith. This law provides what he calls "a sensible balancing test" for courts to use when reviewing government policies that infringe upon the religious freedom rights of North Dakotans.
It does not determine who will win every disagreement, but it does ensure that every North Dakotan—regardless of their religious creed or political power—receives a fair hearing when government action forces a person to violate his or her religious beliefs.
"We commend the North Dakota Legislature and Governor Burgum for enacting this important legislation, setting the stage to ensure that freedom of religion is protected for all North Dakotans," the ADF attorney says.
The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for the LGTBQIA+ community, criticized North Dakota's legislators and urged the governor to veto the measure, saying it amounts to a license to discriminate.