Bill Text - HB1185 (2008)

Relative to the preservation of religious freedom.

Revision: Jan. 1, 2008, midnight






AN ACT relative to the preservation of religious freedom.

SPONSORS: Rep. Itse, Rock 9

COMMITTEE: Judiciary


This bill restricts government action from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.




In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eight

AN ACT relative to the preservation of religious freedom.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Chapter; Preservation of Religious Freedom. Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 354-B the following new chapter:



354-C:1 Definitions. In this chapter:

I. “Demonstrates” means meets the burden of persuasion under the standard of clear and convincing evidence.

II. “Exercise of religion” means the exercise of religion under Part 1, Article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

III. “Fraudulent claim” means a claim that is dishonest in fact or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as a to harass the opposing party.

IV. “Frivolous claim” means a claim that completely lacks merit under existing law and cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.

V. “Government entity” means any branch, department, agency, or instrumentality of state government, or any official or other person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision of the state.

VI. “Substantially burden” means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.

354-C:2 Religious Freedom Preserved.

I. Except as provided in paragraph II, no government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

II. No government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is:

(a) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and

(b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

354-C:3 Restrictions.

I. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to:

(a) Authorize any government entity to burden any religious belief; or

(b) Affect, interpret or in any way address those portions of Part I, Article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion.

II. Granting government funds, benefits or exemptions, to the extent permissible under RSA 354-C:2, II shall not constitute a violation of this chapter.

III. As used in this section, “granting” used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, shall not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.

354-C:4 Claims and Awards. A person whose religious exercise has been burdened by government in violation of this chapter may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may obtain such declaratory relief and/or monetary damages as may properly be awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction. A person who prevails in any proceeding to enforce this chapter against a government entity may recover his or her reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rule of standing under Part I, Article 5 and Part I, Articles 31 and 32 of the New Hampshire constitution. The provisions of this section relating to attorney’s fees shall not apply to criminal prosecutions.

354-C:5 Penalties. Any person found by a court with jurisdiction over the action to have abused the protections of this chapter by filing a frivolous or fraudulent claim may be assessed the government entity’s court costs, if any, and may be enjoined from filing further claims under this chapter without leave of court.

2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2009.