A constitutional amendment designed to expand protections for religious liberty passed its first hurdle March 4 when the House Judiciary Committee voted 16-11 to send the proposed bill to the floor of the U.S. House. It was a straight party-line vote, with Republicans favoring the Religious Liberty Amendment and Democrats opposing.
The amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House before being sent to the Senate. If the Senate approves it, 34 states will have to ratify it before it becomes part of the U.S. Constitution.
Backers of the proposed amendment say it is needed to reverse 30 years of court decisions which have chipped away at religious liberty rights once taken for granted by U.S. citizens. The amendment would protect religious expressions in public places, including public schools.
“This is the first time a House committee has ever acted favorably on such an amendment,” said Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), sponsor of the measure. “We’re moving toward reversing the damage of 36 years of court rulings trampling religious freedoms.”
Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition, praised the committee approval of the amendment. “It’s the first time in 27 years,” he said, “that the issue of voluntary school prayer will make it to the House floor. Over the past three decades the Supreme Court has steadily suppressed religious speech, using the First Amendment to defend censorship.”
Not all church leaders support the measure. The Rev. Thom Fassett, General Secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said, “At best, this amendment is unnecessary as it calls for religious liberties that are already clearly part of our everyday lives. At worse, this resolution threatens the very religious liberties it proposes to strengthen.”
– E.P. News