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PRINT ISSUE 3 of 2022 Fact Sheet-- Get the facts about what this constitutional amendment would do, what supporters
and opponents say, and a sneak peek at the ballot title you will see on Election Day.
Issue 3 was one of four constitutional amendments on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot.
The Public Policy Center has provided neutral information on statewide ballot issues
since 2004. Download the full 2022 Arkansas Ballot Issue Voter Guide or click on the image to access a printer friendly version of our Issue 3 fact sheet.
The information below is from our voter guide.
A Constitutional Amendment to Create the “Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment.”
An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to create the "Arkansas Religious Freedom
Amendment"; and to provide that government may never burden a person's freedom of
religion except in the rare circumstance that the government demonstrates that application
of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling government interest
and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.
Arkansas senators and representatives voted to place SJR14, as Issue 3 was known then, on the 2022 General Election Ballot. The
Arkansas Constitution grants the legislature the right to include up to three constitutional
amendments on the general election ballot.
Constitutional amendments currently require the approval of a majority of voters in
a statewide election. Election Day is Nov. 8, 2022.
A FOR vote means you are in favor of adding an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that prohibits state and local governments from burdening the practice of religion unless
there’s a compelling reason to do so.
An AGAINST vote means you are not in favor of adding an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would prohibit state and local governments from burdening the practice of religion unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.
On Election Day, the ballot will show only the popular name and ballot title of this
Every proposal has more text to it that further describes the proposed law. Read the complete text of Issue 3, or SJR14 as it was previously known, on the legislature's website.
The proposed amendment would add language to the Arkansas Constitution that:
The amendment would apply to current and future government laws, rules, regulations,
ordinances, administrative provisions and rulings, guidelines and other requirements.
Approved by voters in 1874, the Arkansas Constitution contains a freedom of religion
provision in Article II, Section 24:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to
the dictates of their own consciences; no man can, of right, be compelled to attend,
erect or support any place of worship; or to maintain ministry against his consent.
No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with
the right of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious
establishment, denomination or mode of worship above any other.
Since then Arkansans have not voted on any constitutional amendments regarding this
Government is defined in the proposal as:
The amendment would apply to local, county and state government agencies, courts,
state-funded schools and colleges, government-owned utilities, and government-related
commissions, councils, and boards. If an entity was created by an Arkansas governing
body or law, it would fall under the definition of government in this proposal.
There are federal and Arkansas laws regarding the free exercise of religion.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law
respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The 14th Amendment also extends the protections in the First Amendment to the state
and local level.
In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in response to a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case that affected how to judge and determine
the government’s burden in constitutional free exercise claims. The RFRA prohibited federal, state and local governments from “substantially” burdening a person’s
exercise of religion.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the RFRA was unconstitutional as it applied
to state and local governments because it exceeded Congress’ enforcement power. However,
RFRA is still the law when it comes to the federal government’s impact on a person’s
exercise of religion.
Since then, Arkansas and more than 20 other states have passed their own versions
of the federal law.
In 2015, Arkansas lawmakers passed Act 975. This state-level RFRA mirrors the federal law and says government cannot substantially
burden a person’s exercise of religion.
The state law refers to a federal test, or method, for determining whether a government
has a compelling interest for substantially burdening the free exercise of religion.
Act 975 explicitly exempts the Department of Correction, the Department of Community
Correction, county jails and detention facilities, which means the law does not apply
to these agencies.
There is not a definition of “burden” in the proposed amendment or a process for identifying when a government does it for non-compelling reasons. This will likely be left for court interpretation.
The term “compelling government interest” isn’t defined in this proposal, but the
Arkansas General Assembly’s legislative findings that accompanied Issue 3 when they
voted to place it on the ballot note that the “compelling interest test” described
in previous court rulings as well as in the federal law “is a workable test for striking
sensible balances between religious liberty and competing government interests from
public education … [to] national defense … and other areas of important mutual concern.”
There is no definition of “person” in the proposed amendment. (Nor is there a definition
in Act 975, a current law discussed above.)
Ultimately, a court would resolve what this term means, which could stretch beyond
the common use of “person” to refer to a human being. For example, the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that “person” included privately-held corporations.
A provision for freedom of religion is found in all 50 state constitutions, according
to a reference guide on the Arkansas Constitution by Kay Goss.3 Additionally, religious freedom restoration laws now exist in over 20 states, including
Arkansas and states surrounding us.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, some states define “burden”
and “person” in their state laws. In addition to prohibiting government interference,
Indiana and Texas also prohibit non-governmental entities from burdening religious
Only Alabama has a constitutional amendment. Alabama’s amendment does not include
the word “substantially” when discussing burden. Arkansas lawmakers said they modeled
Issue 3 after the Alabama amendment, which voters there approved in 1998.
The day after the election, which is Nov. 9, 2022.
The amendment would apply to any current or future statute, rule, regulation, ordinance,
administrative provision, administrative ruling, guideline or requirement.
The following statements are examples of what supporters and opponents have made public either in media statements, campaign
literature, on websites or in interviews with Public Policy Center staff. The University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not endorse or validate these statements.
Public Policy Center staff summarize Issue 3 on the Arkansas ballot in the video below.
Groups that support or oppose ballot issues are required to register with the Arkansas
Ethics Commission as a ballot or legislative question committee once they raise or
spend a certain amount of money on their efforts. Visit the Commission's website to view these filings, which include names of people behind a group and how much money
has been raised or spent.
Family Council Action Committee
Ethics Commission Filing
No filings as of Oct. 6.