Wed, Sep 21, 2022 3:42 PM
By Merrilee Gasser, The Center Square
Arkansas placed 27th in the nation for its safeguarding of religious liberties, according to a newly published report.
Commissioned by the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, the Religious Liberty in the States 2022 report examines the current state of religious freedom in America using state statutory and constitutional laws.
“We narrow the scope of our data to areas where any relevant federal law either does not apply to state jurisdictions or where federal law is clear enough to characterize what space remains for the states to enact and enforce laws,” said the authors.
The report ranked states based on 29 identified legal safeguards, including absentee voting, childhood immunization requirements, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, employer exemption from the contraceptive mandate, exemptions for marriage and wedding participation, and exemptions for health-care providers.
Arkansas received a score of 35%. The median state score was also 35%.
Arkansas’ original constitution states “that all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” Voters will decide whether to include the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into the state constitution in November.
Arkansas scored a “no” for opportunity for absentee voting and a no for employer exemption from the contraceptive mandate. It received a “yes” for exemptions from childhood immunization requirements and a “yes” on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The state had zero out of five exemptions for marriage and wedding participation and 12 out of 20 exemptions for health-care providers. Some of the exemptions Arkansas has for providers include abortion refusal, sterilization refusal, and contraceptive refusal.
“This index draws from as many state statutes and constitutional provisions as possible to measure religiously relevant laws that might differ across states regardless of the religious motivation for the safeguard,” said the report. “Typically, states are not writing new laws to intentionally restrict religious liberty, and so the variation comes from states providing safeguards for free exercise, say, in otherwise religion-neutral laws.”