BOISE – A House committee approved legislation Monday that asks the U.S. Congress to support the Constitution Restoration Act, aimed at preventing federal courts from ruling on state cases related to religion.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 16-1 to approve Senate Joint Memorial 119, which passed the Senate earlier this month, 25-5.
Sponsor Bryan Fischer, executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, said the act being considered by Congress is in response to the “runaway federal judiciary” that is working to “restrict religious liberty in the United States.”
If passed, the Constitution Restoration Act would give the state courts final say on religious issues, preventing cases from being appealed to a federal court.
Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, was the only committee member to vote against the legislation. She said the act would open the door for religious persecution.
“I’m devoutly religious, but I do not believe that this bill addresses the separation between church and state. In fact I think it violates it,” Pasley-Stuart said.
Fischer said the act would help preserve things like the public display of the Ten Commandments, the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the motto “In God We Trust.”
Fischer cited a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that declared the phrase “under God” unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance as reason to support the act. The ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court, but only on a technicality, Fischer emphasized.
Fischer also cited the removal of the Ten Commandments from Julia Davis Park in Boise by the Boise City Council because city officials feared possible legal action. “If the fear of litigation is removed, then city officials can make decisions about the public posting of the Ten Commandments in their communities based on what they believe is the best policy for their city,” Fischer said.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, are among the act’s co-sponsors.
Conservative religious activist Brandi Swindell said the act is what mainstream America wants. “The resolution puts religious freedom in its rightful place, in the hands of the people,” said Swindell, co-director of the Keep the Commandments Coalition. “I think it’s really important that we always remember that our Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
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