MADISON — A local representative introduced a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday designed to protect religious liberty in Wisconsin, according to a press release.
The release and subsequent communications from the office of state Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, point to multiple instances in Wisconsin where government entities have reportedly infringed upon this freedom. Craig’s district includes the village and town of Waterford in Racine County.
“The sincerely held religious beliefs of every citizen — whether a student in a public school, a pastor of a local church or a business owner — should be respected by every level of government,” Craig said in the release. “Our amendment would protect the right of individuals to act, or refrain from acting, based on sincerely held religious beliefs, from unreasonable burdens by the government.”
Those examples include a 2008 Tomah Public High School case when a student’s artwork showing a Bible and cross was censored; a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire policy prohibiting residents from holding Bible study sessions in their dorm rooms; a Janesville police officer prevented from posting announcements of an offsite prayer group; and more. Each of the examples provided by Craig’s office related to Christian beliefs.
In Racine, Craig spokesman Nathan Schacht pointed to a 2005 debate over allowing Christmas decorations Downtown in Monument Square. Although that issue was put to rest by the city following pressure from a coalition of local churches, “Our amendment would hopefully avoid the conflict all together by clarifying the issue in our constitution,” Schacht said in an email.
In the press release, Craig characterized the amendment as a necessary protection “as government grows ever larger, encroaching more and more into our daily lives.”
The text of the proposed amendment augments existing state constitutional language regarding religious liberty and separation of church and state.
Like all constitutional amendments, Craig’s proposal would have to pass two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature, before going to voters statewide for approval.
The proposal is co-sponsored with state Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, and has already accrued fairly strong support from the Legislature, with 20 Assembly co-sponsors and five Senate co-sponsors, according to a spokesman from Craig’s office.