A proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt Bible-based speech from the constitution and state law’s existing restrictions – including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes – has been cleared to start circulating petitions.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Allan Esses, a pastor from Irvine, must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from registered voters by Dec. 2 in order to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot.
Here’s the state Attorney General’s official title and summary for the new proposed measure:
BIBLE-BASED SPEECH. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Exempts speech based on biblical authority from existing constitutional and statutory restrictions applicable to all other speech, including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes. Repeals constitutional provision denying protection to acts of religious expression inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially minor increased costs to state and local governments to resolve legal issues pertaining to the effect of the measure. (13-0003.)
Article 1, Section 4 of the state constitution says, “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’ amendment would strike the second sentence in that section (“This liberty of conscience…”) and would add this section:
(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that it is not a crime, hate crime or unlawful for a person to use any part of the Bible’s content as authority: and 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, marriage, 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 a computer, electronic devise, telephone, cell phone or fax machine. These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.
Penal Code Section 302 criminalizes the intentional disruption of a religious gathering; Section 602.11 criminalizes blocking entry or exit from a health care facility (such as an abortion clinic), place of worship or school; and Section 11412 criminalizes making someone refrain from religious activity by means of a threat.
Esses failed to gather enough signatures for a similar measure in 2011.
“Although the Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, recent restrictions on the free exercise of religion have compelled the organization to submit clarifications of citizen’s First Amendment rights, similar to the need felt by some of the nation’s Founding Fathers to clarify in the Bill of Rights what they believed existed in the Constitution,” Esses had said of that earlier proposed measure in 2010. “What is particularly ironic and disturbing is the growing intolerance of so many people who preach tolerance. Increasingly, Christians are expected to violate our beliefs and conform our religious convictions to accommodate those who support positions that are clearly unbiblical.”