The Freedom From Religion Foundation is submitting testimony to the Maine Legislature in opposition to a bill that proposes to unconstitutionally favor long-established churches.
LD 1063 exempts “qualifying” religious organizations from auto insurance requirements. To qualify, a religious organization must have “established tenets and faith-based teachings and ha[ve] been in existence continuously since Dec. 31, 1950.” There also must be “no factors causing the secretary of state to believe that the religious organization and its members do not have the financial ability to pay any future judgements against them.”
These requirements are problematic on at least three levels, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne writes to Sen. Heather Sanborn and Rep. Denise Tepler, co-chairs of the Committee On Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services, which is holding a hearing on the bill on Thursday, April 1.
First and foremost, the bill discriminates against secular nonprofits by only allowing applicants that are “religious organizations,” and those with “faith-based teachings,” to qualify. Second, the bill discriminates against newer religious organizations, which disproportionately includes minority religions. Third, the broad and vague power given to the secretary of state to deny an organization’s qualification status based on any “factor” causing the secretary to “believe” that the organization could not pay judgments against them is an invitation for unequal treatment and further discrimination.
For all of these reasons, FFRF underscores, LD 1063 places the state’s stamp of approval on certain religious organizations over others — and over all secular nonprofits. This selective favored treatment violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, § 3 of the Maine Constitution, which states that “no subordination nor preference of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.”
And, importantly, this bill leaves a large percentage of Mainers behind because they are nonreligious. Nonreligious Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated. Besides being unconstitutional, it is unfair and irrational to favor certain religious residents.
For all of the above reasons, FFRF strongly urges the Maine Legislature to vote in opposition to LD 1063.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including members in Maine and a state chapter. It protects the constitutional separation between state and church, and educates the public about nontheism.
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