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Religious Tolerance logo


Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs)

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During the late 1980's, a series of rulings by the US Supreme Court upheld the right of governments to restrict religious freedom, as long as the limitations applied equally to all faiths. A series of laws at the federal and state level were initiated, in an effort to limit such restrictions. They have all run into constitutional problems because they attempt to grant special religious freedoms to individuals and organizations that are not available to Agnostics, Atheists, and other secularists and their groups. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that a wall of separation be maintained between church and state. Any law that gives special privileges to religious people and groups is clearly unconstitutional.

These laws remain immensely popular among the general public and religious institutions and will probably continue to be introduced, passed, signed into law, and eventually declared unconstitutional.

One solution might be to craft a law that would give the same special privileges to all groups and individuals who promote either a religions or a secular belief system. This law might be declared constitutional if it:

bullet Did not promote one faith group over another.

bullet Did not promote a secular belief system over a religious system

bullet Did not promote a religious system over a secular belief system.

bullet Did not promote one secular belief system over another.

However it probably would be not possible to gather enough support to pass such legislation in Congress.

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Topics covered in this essay:

bulletFederal legislation:
bullet Background
bullet Excerpts from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
bullet RFRA declared unconstitutional
bullet Reactions to the Supreme Court action
bullet A related effort on religious freedom
bulletState legislation:
bullet RFRA reborn at the state level
bulletAdditional attempts at federal legislation:
bullet RLPA: the rebirth of the federal RFRA
bullet RLUIPA: Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

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A recommended book on the topic of religion and the law:

Marci A Hamilton, "God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the rule of law" The author is an expert on RFRA and RLUIPA. Read reviews or buy it safely from

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious laws > here

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Copyright © 1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-JUN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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