Preempting Trump: Barnstead, NH Adopts First-In-Nation Law Protecting Against Religious Persecution

by: Posted on: March 16, 2016

Editor’s Note: Amongst emboldened racist xenophobia, one small New Hampshire town has taken a historic stand to guard religious minorities from fascist requirements by any future governments. The tactic may provide yet another tool for the rising sanctuary movement to protect people deemed “illegal” by our government.



Residents of the Town of Barnstead, NH, took an unprecedented step at their annual Town Meeting on March 12, unanimously enacting a “Community Bill of Rights” law establishing the right to be free from religious identification requirements.

The first-in-the-nation law was drafted at the Town’s request by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect Barnstead residents from political and civil persecution based on their religious beliefs.

The passage of the Right to be Free From Religious Identification Ordinance comes during the 2016 presidential election campaign in which Republican candidate Donald Drumpf spoke of the possibility of requiring people to carry religious identification cards.

Thomas Linzey, CELDF Executive Director stated, “Religious identification laws, as the Ordinance explains, hearken back to dark periods in history, when people of Jewish and other faiths were required to identify themselves by wearing badges and carrying special identification. The community of Barnstead passed this law to protect their people against discrimination and persecution based on religious belief.”

CELDF has been working with New Hampshire residents to advance Community Rights for over a decade. Barnstead’s adoption of this Ordinance is the most recent expansion of CELDF’s Community Rights work, which began with a focus on the environment and is now expanding to include social and economic justice issues.

CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn declared, “The Community Rights Movement in New Hampshire applauds this latest expansion of Community Rights by the people of Barnstead, and the growing coalition of communities working to drive the right of local, community self-government into our New Hampshire Constitution.”

During the current New Hampshire legislative session, State Representative Susan Emerson and several of her colleagues sponsored the Community Rights state constitutional amendment (CACR 14) which was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network in partnership with CELDF. The measure had an initial hearing in February. Supporters are now preparing to reintroduce the measure in the new legislative session in 2017.

New Hampshire Communities Part of Growing National Movement

Stated Sanborn, “With the introduction of the Community Rights state constitutional amendment, we are advancing the right to local self-government in New Hampshire. Representative Emerson and her colleagues, with their support of the state constitutional amendment, are making history alongside the communities of New Hampshire and hundreds of other communities across the United States.”

Local communities and state Community Rights Networks across the country are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They have worked with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit fossil fuel extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.


Photo: Flickr/jill, jellidonut… whatever

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