Amendment 3: Arkansas voters deciding Constitutional amendment on religious freedom
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Amendment 3 is an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution preventing the government from “burdening” a person’s religious freedom.
It would ban state and local government bodies from “burdening the practice of religion” unless the government can prove a compelling reason to do so. Also, saying that if deemed necessary, infringement would be done by “least restrictive means.”
It appears through recent questioning with voters that the amendment’s wording and how it can be applied is the most confusing for most voters.
“I thought they were trying to sneak in the back door and get their foot in the door,” said Ruth Stromlund, a pastor’s wife who was at the Boone County Election Center Wednesday. “They said it’s their discretion when they could change it. So I said no, just leave it alone. We’re good just the way we are.”
Her husband, Rodney Stromlund, is a local pastor and says he feels the amendment’s goal is only to ensure Arkansans’ religious freedoms.
“As we all know, the U.S. constitution guarantees freedom of religion,” he said. “I’m for anything that furthers that cause, and the amendment states that the least infringing way should be taken care of.”
But some local pastors are split on the amendment. Some feel it is redundant to the U.S. Constitutional protections under the 1st amendment.
“When I saw it, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is good,’” said Heath Kirkpatrick, a pastor at Woodland Heights Baptist Church. “But then, as I started to read it and get into it, the thing that bothered me most was compelling government interest.”
Kirkpatrick says he feels the wording in amendment three would allow the government to assume the burden of religion in the case of another global pandemic.
“I do think it opens up that door with what we experience with COVID,” he said. “Again, I’m cautioning everyone on this amendment and voting now because I don’t trust it.”
Essentially, supporters of Issue 3 feel the amendment would stop courts from “undermining: the free exercise of religion in the state and create strong protection for religious freedom.
Those opposed to Issue 3 feel the amendment is redundant to protections under the U.S. Constitution and allows religion to “burden the government” if necessary.
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