Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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There are several Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in the United States. In general they attempt, under the guise of religious freedom, to restore the right to discriminate against minorities. Most news coverage focuses on what is often the intended purpose of these laws: discrimination against LGBT communities by Christians. However, the laws could effectively allow for other behaviours by other religions.

Typical provisions[edit]

The following is the meat of the federal RFRA, upon which many state statutes were modeled:

Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.[1]

This effectively restores the so-called Sherbert test of Sherbert v. Verner. Despite there being very little secret about the intended effect (allowing discrimination against others), this rule (a) is not guaranteed to achieve that effect (in particular, the application of the federal version to state laws was struck as unconstitutional, with its application to federal law standing as a rule of construction) and (b) can lead to some other undesired effects (see below).

Indiana doesn't want me[edit]

Indiana's 2015 law - largely a brainchild of 2016 VP candidate Mike Pence - of this name has brought the existence of such acts into the limelight, and has brought on something of a backlash, with a looming boycott[2] causing the state of Georgia to reconsider passing its own version of the law.[3] The Governor of Connecticut has banned state-funded travel to Indiana, even though Connecticut has its own RFRA law; the crucial difference is that Connecticut also has a law protecting minorities from discrimination.[4] This has all led to a certain amount of backpedalling in Indiana, with "clarification" of the law's reach in the works.[5] Meanwhile, over at the department of unintended consequences, the First Church of Cannabis has plans to make merry in the Hoosier state.[6][7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]