The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Is Used to Discriminate. Let's Fix It.

This piece originally ran at Religion News Service.

When Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, the American Civil Liberties Union supported it because we believed it would provide important protections for people to practice their faith.

Having fought for religious liberty for decades, we were troubled that the interpretation of the Constitution at the time did not sufficiently protect minority faiths. Over the years, we have used RFRA to fight for religious rights, most recently on behalf of a Sikh student, Iknoor Singh, who was barred from entering the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unless he cut his hair, shaved his beard and removed his turban.

But today RFRA is being used as a vehicle for institutions and individuals to argue that their faith justifies myriad harms — to equality, to dignity, to health and to core American values.  For example:

  • In 2014, a federal magistrate judge cited RFRA in ruling that a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints could not be required to cooperate in an investigation of child labor law violations. (Church leaders were accused of removing children from school and forcing them to harvest pecans on a private ranch, without pay, for eight hours a day.)

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The Smith case was contended as an issue identified with opportunity of religion, a privilege ensured by the first Amendment, yet it was not all that critical for its result on the benefits, however for the way that the Supreme Court changed the tenets on when a state statute will be esteemed to disregard the Constitution.

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