HB 1536 – AS INTRODUCED
HOUSE BILL 1536
This bill prohibits a government entity from any action that substantially burdens a person’s free exercise of religion. The bill also establishes a private right of action for violations of the statute.
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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Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve
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 546-B the following new chapter:
PRESERVATION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
546-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 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. “Prevails” means to obtain “prevailing party” status as defined by courts construing the federal Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. section 1988.
VII. “Substantially burden” means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.
546-C:2 Religious Freedom Preserved. No government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
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 which prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion.
II. Granting government funds, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under RSA 546-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.
546-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 the person’s 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.
546-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, 2013.