Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts


 Until 1990 courts interpreted the Free Exercise Clause as mandating an exemption from a generally applicable statute, ordinance, or regulation which burdened the free exercise of religion unless the law was supported by a government interest of the highest order which was effected by a legislative program which had the least possible burden on the free exercise of religion. See e.g., Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398  (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).  In 1990, the United States Supreme Court somewhat diminished Free Exercise Clause exemptions from generally applicable laws. See Employment Div. v. Smith, 485 U.S. 660 (1988).

 Congress responded by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.  The United States Supreme Court has declared the Religious Freedom Restoration Act unconstitutional to the extent that it is applied against state and local laws.  City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997).  It has continuing force and effect against federal statutes and regulations.  Many states also passed statutes which to one degree or another restore earlier protections for the free exercise of religion.  Those state statutes may be found at the Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Liberty Archive’s State Statutes. 

Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group

States with Religious Freedom Restoration Acts: