State Amendment One is a constitutional amendment that will appear on Alabama’s ballot this November which, if passed, would prohibit Alabama courts from considering “foreign laws” in their decisions. While Amendment One may not appear harmful on its face, the overly broad language and definition of “foreign laws” used in the text would have harmful unintended consequences for Alabama’s families and churches. In their rush to write this amendment, Alabama lawmakers left out critically important provisions and exemptions for international adoptions, marriages of Alabama citizens performed overseas, and the religious freedom of churches to be governed by their by-laws and church rules.
Additionally, Alabama already prohibits foreign laws from superseding or infringing on the rights of our citizens. State Amendment One would offer no additional protections – addressing a problem that doesn’t exist – while causing harm. Here’s what you need to know:
Amendment One Threatens Adoptions
Many churches and faith-based adoption agencies work hard to help place children orphaned overseas in good Christian homes here in the States and numerous families across Alabama have opened their hearts and homes to international adoptions. Any international adoption involves engaging the legal systems of other countries. Without an exemption for adoptions, the broad definition of “foreign laws” used in Amendment One would apply to foreign adoption laws, negating international adoptions in Alabama. A similar law was struck down in Missouri for this very reason.
Amendment One Threatens Marriage
There are a number of reasons Alabama citizens to be married overseas, including destination weddings, or because they are living abroad for missions work or their jobs. When US citizens are married in other countries couples do not typically have to get re-married when they return to the states. Marriages performed overseas using foreign laws are considered valid unless they otherwise violate US laws. Amendment One provides no provisions for marriages of Alabama citizens performed overseas, invalidating international marriages. This would create a legal nightmare not only for Alabama couples, but for how courts would arbitrate cases involving the children of parents married overseas, the death of a spouse, property questions and any number of other family law matters.
Amendment One Threatens Religious Liberty
The definition of “foreign laws” used in Amendment One is so poorly written and broad that it doesn’t just refer to the laws of other countries. It would also apply to the by-laws and rules churches use to govern who they will hire or ordain. One way to have prevented this is to insert language in the amendment stating:
This subsection shall not apply to a religious corporation, association, or society with respect to the individuals of a particular religion regarding matters that are purely ecclesiastical, to include but not be limited to matters of calling a pastor, excluding members from a church, electing church officers, matters concerning church bylaws, constitution, and doctrinal regulations and the conduct of other routine church business, where the jurisdiction of the church would be final and jurisdiction of the courts would be contrary to the First Amendment of the United States and the State of Alabama.
Unfortunately, the drafters of Amendment One did not include any such language, which means if Amendment One passes, churches will be restricted in how they govern themselves according to their beliefs.