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.I NAME:                252.SUM
.I COMP:                7/8/93
.I REVW:                MCC000
.I PAGES:               2
.I TITLE:               AAC RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
.I NOTES:               LAV
.I REPLACE:
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PA 93-252--sHB 5645
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Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
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SUMMARY: The Connecticut Constitution grants people the right to
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freely follow their religion (the so-called "free exercise"
clause).
This act specifically prohibits the state or any of its political
subdivisions from placing any burden on this right, unless they can
demonstrate that their actions are to further a compelling
governmental interest and are the least restrictive ways of doing
so.
Thus, the act designates the test that state courts must use in
deciding cases in which individuals claim that the state has
infringed on their constitutional free-exercise-of-religion rights.
The act authorizes people to go to court to enforce this right.

The act contains a disclaimer that its provisions should not be
interpreted as authorizing the state or its political subdivisions
to
burden any religious beliefs.

The act specifies that its provisions should not be construed as
affecting or interpreting the provision of the state constitution
that prohibits giving preference by law to any of the state's
religious societies or denominations. The act also states that the
granting of constitutionally allowable governmental funding,
benefits, or exemptions is not a violation of its provisions; but
"granting" does not include denial of such funds, benefits, or
exemptions.

"State or political subdivision" is defined to include any agency,
board, commission, department, officer, or employee of the state or
any of its political subdivisions. The act specifies that for the
government to prevail in court it has the burden of "going forward
with the evidence and of persuasion."

EFFECTIVE DATE:  October 1, 1993

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Constitutional Provisions
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Article First, Section 3 of the Connecticut Constitution reads as
follows:

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    The  exercise and  enjoyment  of  religious  profession  and
    worship, without discrimination,  shall  forever  be free to
    all persons in  the  state;  provided, that the right hereby
    declared and established,  shall  not  be so construed as to
    excuse  acts of  licentiousness,  or  to  justify  practices
    inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.

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Article Seventh reads as follows:

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    It being the  right of all men to worship the Supreme Being,
    the Great Creator  and  Preserver  of  the  Universe, and to
    render that worship  in  a mode consistent with the dictates
    of their consciences, no person shall by law be compelled to
    join or support,  nor  be  classed  or  associated with, any
    congregation, church or religious association. No preference
    shall  be  given   by   law  to  any  religious  society  or
    denomination in the  state.  Each  shall  have and enjoy the
    same  and equal  powers,  rights  and  privileges,  and  may
    support  and maintain  the  ministers  or  teachers  of  its
    society or denomination, and may build and repair houses for
    public worship.

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U.S. Constitution and Case Law
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The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, "Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." This provision was made
applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a number of free-exercise-of-religion cases, the U.S. Supreme
Court has used the "compelling state interest" test. Under this
test,
it would uphold a government action that burdened or interfered
with
a person's free exercise of religion only if the government's
action
was the least restrictive way of accomplishing a compelling state
objective. But recently, in Employment Division v. Smith, 110 S.
Ct.
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1595 (1990), the Court declined to employ the compelling state
interest test. Instead, it ruled that the right of free exercise of
religion does not relieve individuals of their obligation to comply
with valid or neutral laws of general applicability, as long as the
law does not violate other constitutional protections. According to
the Court, if prohibiting the religious activity is not the object
of
the law but "merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable
and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been
offended."
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