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H.R. 1308 (103rd): Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law that "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected." The bill was introduced by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) the same day. A unanimous U.S. House and a nearly unanimous U.S. Senate—three senators voted against passage—passed the bill, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

RFRA was held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress's enforcement power. However, it continues to be applied to the federal government—for instance, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.—because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized. In response to City of Boerne v. Flores and other related RFR issues, twenty individual states have passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

This summary is from Wikipedia.

Last updated Jan 23, 2017. Source: Wikipedia

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.


10/27/1993--Passed Senate amended. Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 - Prohibits any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that the government may burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. Sets forth provisions pertaining to judicial relief, attorney's fees, and applicability. Declares that: (1) nothing in this Act shall be construed to interpret the clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the establishment of religion; (2) the granting of government funding, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under that clause, shall not constitute a violation of this Act; and (3) as used in this Act, "granting" does not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.