I am following with interest the discussion of SB 215, which its sponsors claim to be some kind of protection of Montanans’ religious freedoms. It seems some folks are interested in the subject but might not yet have read the proposed bill/s.  

Frankly, I am not sure what the bill’s sponsors are trying to accomplish. The content, as I read it, intends to prevent Montana laws from “overburdening” Montanans in their free exercise of religion. What might such “overburdening” look like, I wonder?  

A previous letter to the editor, whose writer admitted he had not read the bill, used two examples of what he thought the bill might do for adherents of religions that are extreme minority religions in our state. I find that interesting and a bit puzzling. I am reasonably certain that there is no Montana law that requires kosher delis to sell pork or explicitly Muslim daycares (is there such a business in Montana?) to hire non-Muslim caregivers.

My brief look at Google Scholar gave me a summary of Montana religious demographics as running overwhelmingly in what I will summarize as “some version of Christian-ish.” The statistics shift a little if the First Peoples nations are included, but frankly not very much. The difference might be what my stats professors called “statistically significant, but not necessarily meaningful.”

Given these demographics, I must wonder what the sponsors of this bill mean by the broad language of their document. What constitutes a “substantial burden” upon the free exercise of religion as put in place by the state of Montana? What religious freedoms were restricted that should be restored, as per the title of the bill?

If you are an adherent of the unquestionable majority religion (and I understand, as someone with 30 years of life and ministry as an Evangelical believer behind me, that there are great variations among believers about the definition of “being a Christian”), I believe there is a special burden upon us to question the plan and purpose (conscious or otherwise) behind any “religious rights” legislature we might support.

I appreciate the opportunities The Boulder Monitor gives us to learn about the legislature’s activities and enjoy hearing varied points of view. I’m glad for my chosen community.

 — Irene Wiener, Boulder

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