Urgent: A House Bill is Targeting Churches. “Sign-In” Now in Opposition.

As you may know, New Hampshire is the most secular state in the country, a fact that can sometimes translate into discrimination against religious people and organizations.

While Granite Staters are blessed with many robust religious liberty protections, one area where churches often face a kind of passive aggressive hostility in New Hampshire is in municipal zoning. Until last year, many towns used zoning ordinances to specifically target and disadvantage church construction.

In Hanover, for example, churches needed to comply with more restrictive regulations than schools, libraries, and other kinds of non-religious facilities. As a result, every new church construction project had been denied in Hanover since 1960 and no new churches had been built in one hundred years.

It is important to note that, while we are a Christian advocacy organization, this is not solely a Christian issue: these kinds of discriminatory regulations have also targeted our Muslim friends.

In response, last year a bipartisan majority of the legislature enacted RSA 674:76, prohibiting zoning ordinances and planning regulations from treating places of worship more harshly than non-religious institutions.

Unfortunately, some municipalities are seeking to repeal these protections, claiming that treating churches the same as similar non-religious construction projects is somehow “too difficult” for municipalities to implement.

On Wednesday, January 18, the House Judiciary Committee will hear HB 63. Although this bill’s text may sound neutral to someone unfamiliar with the relevant legal issues, in its legal substance the bill would repeal all of the protections provided by RSA 674:76 and allow churches to once against be targeted by municipalities.

Please remotely sign in now in opposition to the bill. To do so, go here and select January 18 under Step 2. Under Step 3, select “House Judiciary,” choose bill “3:00 PM – HB 63” and check “I oppose this bill.”

While HB 63 must be stopped in its current form, one harmless aspect of the bill would, in effect, invite religious organizations to help provide care for the homeless if they choose to do so. We of course have no objection to this provision.

Rep. Maureen Mooney, a Cornerstone-endorsed House representative, is introducing a Judiciary Committee amendment which would preserve this unobjectionable aspect of the bill while removing the bill’s discriminatory content. If you choose to submit optional written testimony or attend the hearing, we encourage you to register your support for Rep. Mooney’s amendment while opposing the remainder of the bill.

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