North Dakota church

Pine creek Lutheran country church in central North Dakota

(The Center Square) - North Dakota ranked 37th among the 50 states for its preservation of religious liberties, according to a new report measuring statutory safeguards for the free exercise of religion.

Religious Liberty in the States 2022, from the Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy, examines the states using six groups of safeguards comprising a total of 29 items.

"To maintain objectivity, RLS does not start with a predetermined list of religiously significant topic areas; we look to the states to indicate where laws are relevant for religious liberty," the authors wrote.

Items used to measure religious liberty included absentee voting, childhood immunization requirements, health-care provisions, the Health Insurance Contraceptive Mandate, marriage and weddings, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"The list of potential safeguards were identified for their ability to protect the free exercise of religion, as shown by at least one of 50 states adopting a religious liberty protection in the named area," said the authors.

North Dakota received a score of 32% for its safeguarding of religious liberty. The highest score was Mississippi at 81%, and the lowest was New York at 15%.

North Dakota's declaration of rights states: "The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference shall be forever guaranteed in this state."

The state scored a "yes" for opportunity for absentee voting, exemptions from childhood immunization requirements, and employer exemption from the contraceptive mandate. It scored a "no" for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The state had zero out of five exemptions for marriage and wedding participation and four out of 20 exemptions for health-care providers in the category of abortion refusal.

"Religious liberty is an experience that extends beyond the physical walls and the operations of the nation's houses of worship," the authors wrote. "And as long as issues where Americans have deeply held but divergent and sometimes conflicting values are arbitrated by government entities (take as examples the provision of abortion by health-care providers and the solemnization of marriage by clergy), the free exercise of religion will require deliberate and nimble safeguarding."