Thursday, April 01, 2021

North Dakota Enacts Law To Limit Restrictions On Religious Exercise During Health Emergencies

On March 29, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed into law Senate Bill 2181 (full text) which limits the authority of the State Health Officer and the governor to issue disease control or other emergency orders that restrict the free exercise of religion.  Under the new law, an order may not:

(1) Substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless the order is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest;

(2) Treat religious conduct more restrictively than any secular conduct of reasonably comparable risk, unless the government demonstrates through clear and convincing scientific evidence that a particular religious activity poses an extraordinary health risk; or

(3) Treat religious conduct more restrictively than comparable secular conduct because of alleged economic need or benefit.

Williston Herald reported on the legislature's passage of the bill.