ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb) is also known under the shortened name RFRA. Signed into United States federal law in 1993, this act aims to prevent the creation and implementation of any law(s) that places any substantial burden on a person’s free exercize rights of practicing their religion. The RFRA reinstates the Sherbert Test which was created through two cases: Sherbert v Verner and Wisconsin v Yoder, both of which mandate that strict scrutiny be used when determining if the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution – which guarantees religious freedom – has been violated.
Congress stated through its findings that “a religiously neutral law can burden a religion just as much as one that was intended to interfere with religion.” The RFRA states that that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The law provides an exception if two conditions are both met. First, if the burden is necessary for the “furtherance of a compelling government interest.” Under strict scrutiny, a government interest is compelling when it is more than routine and does more than simply improve government efficiency. A compelling interest relates directly with core constitutional issues. The second condition is that the rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest.
Title 42, Chapter 21B, § 2000bb. Congressional findings and declaration of purposes
The Congress finds that–
(1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
(2) laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;
(4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and
(5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
The purposes of this chapter are–
(1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
An effort to end the North Carolina HB2 law, referred to as the “bathroom bill,” recently failed. The proposed repeal would have ended a compromised law that targets LGBTQ individuals, but opposing sides in the debate failed to do anything. The debate concerning HB2 is particularly complicated and involves a variety of laws, parties with Read More
As Inauguration Day has come and gone, the legislature of the United States has switched presidents and political parties, meaning LGBTQ law is likely to change. Proposed changes in legislation under this new administration will affect individuals of a variety of sexes, races, religions, and ethnicities. Individuals who are interested in LGBTQ rights should Read More
A group of demonstrators at Boca Raton Community Middle School would like a teacher who has expressed alternative religious views removed from the faculty. Language Arts teacher Preston Smith has erected a Satanic religious display over the holiday season that features a pentagram and sign declaring “In Satan We Trust” that stands next to Read More
The Governor of Mississippi has requested that a federal appeals court pass a state law allowing merchants and governments employees to deny services to same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs. Because Mississippi’s Attorney General has refused to appeal this hearing, the case is being handled by private attorneys include some legal counsel at Read More
The United States is one of three countries in addition to the Ukraine and Palau that voted against a United Nations resolution that requested the condemnation of the glorification of Nazism. The resolution, entitled “Combating Glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and Other Practices That Contribute To Fueling Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Read More