Changes Sought to State’s Religious Freedom Protections
Among the initiatives seeking signatures for placement on the ballot is “The Free Exercise of Religion.”
Its sponsor is Yes Jesus is Lord.Org. Below the group’s name on the stationary of the letter seeking title and summary from the state Attorney General for the measure is a portion of the King James Version’s Philippians 2:11.
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” is the full quotation.
Pastor Allan Esses of Irvine, California says in his letter he is submitting a statutory initiative that requires 504,760 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot.
However, Esses’ “The Free Exercise of Religion” amends Article I, Sec. 4 of the California constitution.
Initiatives that amend the constitution have a higher signature threshold of 807,615.
Section 4 of California’s constitution currently reads:
“Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
“A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.”
Esses would strike the second sentence in the first paragraph regarding licentious. Under his initiative, Section 4 (b) would be added to the constitution.
Including boldface and capitalization, here is the section Esses wrote as approved for signature gathering:
“We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith, to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing, cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of computer, telephone, cell phone or fax machine.”
To further clarify his intent, Esses says that the new Section 4 (b) “shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.”
Section 302 of the Penal Code says this:
“Every person who intentionally disturbs or disquiets any assemblage of people met for religious worship at a tax-exempt place of worship, by profane discourse, rude or indecent behavior, or by any unnecessary noise, either within the place where the meeting is held, or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the meeting, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Section 602.11 says:
“Any person, alone or in concert with others, who intentionally prevents an individual from entering or exiting a health care facility, place of worship, or school by physically detaining the individual or physically obstructing the individual’s passage shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail, or a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or both, for the first offense.”
“Any person who, with intent to cause, attempts to cause or causes another to refrain from exercising his or her religion or from engaging in a religious service by means of a threat, directly communicated to such person, to inflict an unlawful injury upon any person or property, and it reasonably appears to the recipient of the threat that such threat could be carried out is guilty of a felony.”
Esses would leave the constitution’s 20-word sentence about jury disqualification just as it is.
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