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美國印第安納州及阿肯色州的《宗教自由恢復法》

30/10/2015
背景

美國聯邦在1993年訂立了《宗教自由法》(RFRA),規定除了基於迫切的公共利益(Compelling governmental interest)外,聯邦政府不能對人(Person)的宗教行使(Exercise of religion)施加重大負擔(Substantial burden),[1]即某人可基於宗教理由而免受聯邦法例的限制。由於該法例只適用於聯邦政府,[2]若個別州欲建立類似規定,須另行訂立該州的RFRA。最近美國印第安納州(“印州”)及阿肯色州(“阿州”)擬訂立RFRA,但草案遭相關團體反對,兩個州政府於是修訂有關草案,作出讓步,情況如下。

 

法例規定

阿州及印州的草案的基本規定與以上聯邦法例的規定相若,但對"Person"的定義欲與聯邦的有所有同。聯邦條例本身沒有定義"Person"一字,但在終審法院的裁決中,"Person"包括緊密持有的營利公司(closelyheld for-profit corporations),[3]表示除了個人及宗教機構外,該等公司亦可基於宗教理由而免受聯邦法例的限制。而在阿州及印州的原草案中,對"Person"的定義似乎更廣,除了包括公司外,沒有規定公司必須為“緊密持有”。[4]阿州其後讓步,修訂了"Person"的定義,使之與聯邦條例的相同,印州則維持其原先對"Person"的定義。

兩州的草案對"Exercise of religion"的定義與聯邦條例的相若,[5]三者的"Exercise of religion"均不限於基於宗教信念系統(system of religious belief)的宗教行使,[6]這意味人可基於較個人的宗教信念而免受聯邦或州的法例的限制。

 

依據RFRA的申訴

在聯邦層面,若某人違反聯邦法例,該人可利用聯邦的RFRA,就聯邦政府的指控向它提出抗辯。而在阿州及印州的原草案中,若某人違反州法例,除了就州政府的指控外,他還可就私人的指控提出抗辯,[7]這無疑提高了他行使宗教自由的保障。阿州其後讓步,在修訂草案中收窄了抗辯的範圍,使之與聯邦條例的相同,而印州則維持其原先的抗辯範圍。

 

與反歧視的關係

雖然印州沒有像阿州般將原草案修訂至與聯邦的一致,但基於印州的一些城市擔心草案會對其開放及多元的形象帶來負面影響,故印州政府某程度上亦作出讓步,在其修訂草案中,明確印州的RFRA並不授權“提供者”(provider) 基於種族、性別、性取向等而拒絕向有關人士提供商品、服務、僱用等,亦不構成對該等拒絕行為的抗辯依據。[8]但是,由於印州沒有反歧視法,歧視是不被禁止的,故並不涉及“授權”與否的問題。故此,修訂草案實際上未有增加被歧視者的法律權利。[9]

 

總結

RFRA使得有關人士可基於行使宗教的自由而豁免受聯邦或州的法例的約束,包括免受反歧視法的約束。故此,RFRA似乎較反歧視法更具凌駕性。但是,這仍要視乎反歧視是否一種公共利益(Compelling governmental interest);若是的話,則有關人士不能基於宗教理由而作出差別對待。

 

Appendix:

 

Federal RFRA

Arkansas RFRA

Indiana RFRA

Original

Amended

Original

Amended

Text of the Statute

明光社

明光社

明光社

明光社

明光社

Scope of application

Federal government

State government of Arkansas

State government of Indiana

Requirement

A Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability

Same as Federal

Same as Federal

Same as Federal

No change

Exception to the Requirement

The application of the burden to the personis:

  1. In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

  2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

The application of the burden to the personis:

  1. Is essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and

  2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Same as Federal

Same as Federal

No change

Relief to violation of the requirement

The person may assert the violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.

Regardless of whether the state is a party to the proceeding, the person may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.

Same as Federal

The person may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.

No change

Anti-discrimination clause

-

-

-

-

The Act does not authorize a provider[10] to refuse (or establish a defense to civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider) to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity.

Definition of "Person"

Not explicitly mentioned

An individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity.

Not explicitly mentioned

"Person" includes the following:

  1. An individual.

  2. An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes.

  3. A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by an individual (or the individuals) who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.

No change

Definition of "Exercise of religion"

Includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief

The practice or observance of religion including without limitation the ability to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a person's sincerely held religious beliefs, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

Same as Federal

Same as Federal

No change

Definition of "Substantial burden"

Not explicitly mentioned

To prevent, inhibit, or curtail religiously-motivated practice consistent with a sincerely held religious belief; including without limitation withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.

Not explicitly mentioned

Not explicitly mentioned

No change

Definition of "Compelling governmental interest"

Not explicitly mentioned

A governmental interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exercise of religion.

Not explicitly mentioned

Not explicitly mentioned

No change

 

 


[1]See “Requirement” and “Exception to the Requirement” in the Appendix

[2]City of Boerne v. Flores (1997)

[3]Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)

[4]See “Definition of "Person"” in the Appendix

[5]阿州的"Exercise of religion"定義在草案修訂前較聯邦條例的詳細,但修訂後則與聯邦條例的一致;印州的"Exercise of religion"定義則在草案修訂前後均與聯邦條例的一致。(See “Definition of "Exercise of religion"” in the Appendix)

[6]See “Definition of "Exercise of religion"” in the Appendix

[7]See “Relief to violation of the requirement” in the Appendix

[8]See “Anti-discrimination clause” in the Appendix

[9]See point 6 in:http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/04/01/10-things-you-need-to-know-to-really-understand-rfra-in-indiana-and-arkansas/

[10]“Provider” means one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, limited liability companies, corporations, and other organized groups of persons (but excluding church or other nonprofit religious organization or society and the minister, etc of them who is engaged in religious function).