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In a state where Sarah Huckabee Sanders will soon be governor and a Republican trifecta will control the government, you wouldn’t expect common sense to win out when it comes to a ballot measure regarding “religious freedom,” but that’s what happened with Amendment 3, a proposal intended to block the government from ever “burden[ing] a person’s freedom of religion” unless there’s a really good reason for it and it’s done in the least restrictive way possible.

Last night, it became official: the side against the proposal won 50.4% – 49.6%.

The “Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment,” co-sponsored by (soon-to-be-former) State Sen. Jason Rapert, would have allowed Arkansans to sue their local or state governments if they felt a policy decision got in the way of practicing their faith. The Amendment never defined “burden,” however, possibly opening the door for all sorts of wild lawsuits in the name of Jesus.

The reason Rapert and his allies even tried doing this is because, during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, religious conservatives were furious over restrictions that applied to their churches. They wanted to meet in person, without face masks, regardless of what that meant for public health and safety. They opposed vaccine mandates in the name of faith. They claimed that if grocery stores could remain open without a cap on how many people could be inside, their churches should be able to play by the same rules, even though those places are substantively different from each other. (Whenever those restrictions were permitted, it was only because they were sensible requests that didn’t really stop anyone from practicing their faith.)

Amendment 3 would’ve made everything much, much worse.

Consider that Arkansas already has a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on the books that echoes the federal RFRA law. The government already can’t substantially burden someone’s exercise of religion. Amendment 3, however, got rid of the word “substantially,” giving more power to religious zealots who think anything and everything violates their faith.

It would’ve removed the exemptions that currently exist under RFRA, for places like prisons and county jails. The chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas pointed out that the amendment could theoretically “result in people citing the Bible to defend things like spousal battery or child abuse.” You could just imagine conservative Christians claiming their faith gives them the right to ignore anti-discrimination laws, consumer protection laws, fire codes, etc. As American Atheists president Nick Fish put it, doctors could refuse to treat LGBTQ patients because they believe God wants everyone to be straight and cis, teachers could refuse to teach evolution because it violates their Creationist views, and business owners could refuse to hire women on the belief that God wants them at home.

Simply put, if Amendment 3 passed, religious conservatives would have a weapon to jam up government policies—even when those policies make perfect sense—just by citing their faith. “Religious freedom” would trump every other law.

Even if judges sided against the religious conservatives, the ability to sue for religious reasons like this would’ve flooded courtrooms across the state. It didn’t help that the lengthy wording of the Amendment was confusing. Liberals also argued that the core protections for religious freedom were already enshrined in the law.

It wasn’t just liberals, though. Right-wing MAGA cultists hilariously claimed the ballot measure actually gave politicians more power because with the amendment, “the government can create a crisis to override your rights.” Did that make any sense? No. But these are not bright people.

Whatever the reason, the “religious freedom” ballot measure failed by a slim margin, even in Arkansas.

Jason Rapert wasn’t happy about it, quoting a local newspaper article about the amendment’s defeat, but adding his own message in ALL CAPS blaming his opponents for lying to people. (It’s not apparent if he was talking about his left-wing or right-wing critics.)

(LIKE LAMBS LED TO SLAUGHTER, MISINFORMATION WAS SPREAD BY A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE WHO WERE IGNORANT OF THE LAW AND IT CAUSED JUST ENOUGH PEOPLE IN OUR STATE TO VOTE AGAINST THEIR OWN INTERESTS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – SHAME ON THOSE RESPONSIBLE – THEY WILL FOREVER BE KNOWN AS MISLEADING OTHERS AND DEFEATING THIS GOOD MEASURE TO ENHANCE AND STRENGTHEN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.)

Ignorance wasn’t the problem here. People on the left were well aware of what this measure would do. While a handful of conservatives were probably duped into thinking this amendment was bad for their beliefs, it’s an open question as to how many people we’re talking about. Either way, when a “religious freedom” proposal like this comes from a wannabe theocrat, no sensible person should sign off on it.

Just to put icing on the cake, 430,412 people voted for the measure. Sarah Huckabee Sanders won her gubernatorial race with 567,436 votes. That means more than 130,000 people in the state supported her… but not this Christian nationalist amendment. That’s how unpopular it was.

Somehow, despite all the other bad decisions made by Arkansas voters this week, they got this one right.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.