Backers, which include the Roman Catholic diocese and a coalition of conservative groups in North Dakota, say the measure predates the current fight that erupted earlier this year when the Obama administration instituted new rules requiring most employers – including religious charities, hospitals, and universities – to provide employees cost-free access to reproductive health services. Conservative social organizations and national Republican strategists have seized on those rules as a way to rally opposition to President Obama’s reelection bid.
Tom Freier, president of the North Dakota Family Alliance, says his group first began crafting its language more than two years ago, partly in response to 1990 US Supreme Court ruling that some groups viewed as an infringement on some religious practices.
“It’s like flood protection: Are you going to wait until the flood to get the protection? There are situations, maybe they’re not as great as in some other places, but they are needed and the time to do it is right now,” he says.
Opponents, however, which include Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and an array of local social service organizations, have called the measure an attempt to codify workplace discrimination on the basis of religion. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper termed the amendment, "an attempted ecclesiastical mugging."