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Introduced Version House Bill 2477 History

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hb2477 intr
H. B. 2477


(By Delegates Shook and Varner)
[Introduced January 13, 2010; referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary.]




A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §1-7-1, §1-7-2, §1-7-3, §1-7-4, §1-7-5 and §1-7-6, all relating to the freedom of religion of West Virginians.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §1-7-1, §1-7-2, §1-7-3, §1-7-4, §1-7-5 and §1-7-6, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 7. WEST VIRGINIA RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT.
§1-7-1. Short title.
This article may be cited as, "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2009."
§1-7-2. Legislative findings and purpose.
(a) The Legislature finds that:
(1) The free exercise of religion is an unalienable right, protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Section 3-15, Article III of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia;
(2) Laws that appear neutral toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without a compelling justification;
(4) The compelling interest test set forth in prior state and federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
(b) Purposes:
(1) To require that the compelling interest test be applied as a guarantee in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) To provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
§1-7-3. Definitions.
As used in this article:
(1) "Government" or "State" includes any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official or other person acting under color of law of the state, a county, special district, municipality, or any other subdivision of the state.
(2) "Demonstrates" means to meet the burden of going forward with the evidence of persuasion.
(3) "Exercise of religion" means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
§1-7-4. Freedom of religion protected.
(a) The government may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule or general applicability, except that government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) Is in futherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(b) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief.
§1-7-5. Attorney's fees and costs.
The prevailing plaintiff in any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of this article is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs to be paid by the government.
§1-7-6. Applicability.
(a) This article applies to all state law, and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the enactment of this article.
(b) State law adopted after the date of the enactment of this article is subject to this article unless such law explicitly excludes such application by reference to this article.
(c) Nothing in this article may be construed to authorize the government to burden any religious belief.
(d) Nothing in this article may be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of Section 3-15, Article III of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion.
(e) Nothing in this article creates any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not a governmental agency.
(f) Nothing in this article may be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of Section 3-15, Article III of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States respecting the establishment of religion. This article may not be construed to permit any practice prohibited by those provisions.



NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to
prevent government sponsored interference with a West Virginian's guaranteed freedom of religion.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.
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