A recently released report shows Texas and Alabama leading the nation in freedoms for faith-based nonprofit groups, while Michigan and Nevada rank the lowest.
Napa Legal put together the Faith and Freedom Index to rank states on whether their laws support or burden religious organizations. Napa evaluated each state based on Religious Freedom and Regulatory Freedom.
The first category, Religious Freedom, looked at constitutional protections of religious freedom, religious freedom for nonprofits and faith-based employers, as well as protections of religious practice during a state of emergency and other factors.
The existence of a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects religious freedom from state burdens. Napa ranked this state law as “one of the most important religious freedom protections for a faith-based nonprofit.”
Alabama, with explicit laws protecting religious rights, ranked highest at 86%. Nevada ranked lowest at 18%, largely because the state has a Blaine Amendment, which prevents government funding of religious schools, and has no RFRA.
Texas, which ranked second-highest for religious freedom, is now contesting the Obama administration’s rule on sexual orientation and gender identity, known as the “SOGI Rule.” The law prohibits faith-based adoption and foster programs that receive federal funds from “discriminating” based on “transgender status” or refusing to place children with same-sex couples. Texas also has constitutional religious protections in place, including protections during a state of emergency.
The second category, Regulatory freedom, looked at laws for religious nonprofits and charities, nonprofit taxes and exemptions, and property taxes and exemptions, among other factors.
Michigan has the highest regulatory restrictions on faith-based NGOs, receiving a 39% ranking in the index. Meanwhile, Napa Legal ranked Oregon as the highest in the nation for regulatory freedom, at 90%. Other states in the Northwest ranked high in this category, including Wyoming and Montana.
Mary Margaret Beecher, vice president and executive director of Napa Legal, argued that states should “minimize the burdens” on faith-based nonprofits and focus enforcement on wrongdoers.