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Montana governor signs law clarifying religious freedom protections

The 1993 federal law established standards that the government must meet when it violates someone’s sincerely-held religious beliefs, and allowed people to challenge religious freedom violations in court.

Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed SB 215, a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Supporters of the bill say it will give people legal recourse when the state impedes their ability to practice their religion.

Matt Sharp, senior counsel for the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, said the law provides people with a legal recourse when they believe their rights have been violated by the state.

“Citizens should not be left defenceless when their government attempts to burden their ability to live and worship according to their faith,” Sharp stated on Thursday.

According to Montana’s new law, a state action cannot “substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion” unless it meets two qualifications. In these cases, the state must prove that its action “is essential to further a compelling governmental interest,” and is also “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The law allows people to challenge the state in court when their “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened” and they believe the state exceeded its lawful bounds in doing so.

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