Today, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (HB 2203) which codifies important legal standards to be used in legal cases involving religious liberty concerns before Kansas Courts.
The Kansas Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by a vote of 34 to 4 on March 21st. The Kansas House of Representatives followed suit approving the legislation by a vote of 109 to 12 on March 25th.
“Kansans can now rely on permanent, statutory protection of their religious liberties,” stated Robert Noland, Executive Director of the Kansas Family Policy Council. “Kansas has a long history of protecting religion and rights of conscience. The Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act continues that rich tradition by codifying the current judicial standard requiring a compelling government interest must be proven before state or local law can require any Kansan to act (or not act) in any manner that violates their deeply held religious beliefs.
“The wide margin of support in both the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate demonstrates a willingness to continue the tradition of reverence and respect accorded to religious liberty in Kansas. Current pending legal challenges to controversial federal mandates for healthcare impacting religious organizations and individual religious liberties illustrate how important these protections are at the federal level. Passage of HB 2203 is a significant step in statutorily implementing these same protections here in Kansas.”
The Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act was authored by Representative Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) and enjoyed the support of 40 other cosponsors in the Kansas House of Representatives.
The bill codifies for Kansas courts the same strict legal protections for religious liberty that currently exist in the federal judicial system. The stricter standards have been in place at the federal level since Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993 in response to weakening judicial standards protecting religious liberties. RFRA passed the US House of Representatives unanimously and won approval in the US Senate by a margin of 97 to 3 before President Clinton signed it into law.
The federal law initially provided the same strict standard regarding religious liberty cases for the individual states until 1997 when the Supreme Court struck down the act’s ability to mandate such protections in state courts.
Because the federal court ruled that RFRA standards could not be mandated in state courts by Congress, it then became incumbent upon each state to act on its own to implement the stricter judicial standard to be used in cases involving challenges to religious liberty.
To date nearly 20 states have enacted similar protections for religious liberty.