A new version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, once again claimed as being necessary to preserve religious freedom in America, that was pushed by Orrin Hatch. It's passage was attempted in both 1998 and 1999. Complete text of the 1999 version that passed the House of Representatives is at the end of this writeup.

It recieved even less support than the original RFRA, because many minority groups were aware that it could have bene used to trump anti-discrimination laws for the religious and was just as likely to offer advantages for the religious that no non-religious person can hope to obtain.

RLPA states, in part, that government shall not burden "a person's religious exercise in a program or activity, operated by a government, that receives federal financial assistance" unless the government can prove its enforcement of the program is "in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and is "the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."

A number of organizations that supported this Act have long since pulled out of the coalition in support of it, and it seems to keep losing support.

Supporters in the government claim it's necessary to guarantee religious liberty in the United States. If there is a lack of religious liberty (which I don't think there is), it's due to the laws. Laws that have been passed by the same people complaining about religious liberty. They make the laws then complain they're restricting freedom. Duh.

Instead of using the RLPA to give religions the ability to trump laws that aren't considered important enough to justify the restrictions, just remove those laws in the first place! Don't give certain religions the right to ignore certain laws, just remove those laws.

It almost looks like an attempt to restrict the freedoms of the non-religious, since you're in effect making laws that only apply to people without religion.

It also leads to problems later on - what if someone decides to create their own religion just to get around a number of laws? Sure, they can't get around everything, as the government does have a pressing interest in certain things, but they'll find some laws they can safely ignore. Unless the government starts stepping in to decide what constitutes a valid religion, and that's a bad road to start down.

It has been suggested that if something like this gets passed, and is considered constitutional, then it could lead to a very libertarian state, as the government would have to start letting people do various things if they claim it's under religions belief. Sure, Native Americans can do peyote as part of their rituals - but then can they prevent Rastafarians from smoking marijuana without being discriminatory? It might just be a free pass to violate laws by claiming religion.


H.R. 1691
Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1999
(Introduced in the House)

HR 1691 IH
106th CONGRESS
1st Session

H. R. 1691

To protect religious liberty.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 5, 1999

Mr. CANADY of Florida (for himself, Mr. EDWARDS, Mr. HYDE, Mr. WEINER, Mr. SENSENBRENNER, Mr. HUTCHINSON, Mr. GREEN of Texas, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. ROGAN, Mr. PETERSON of Minnesota, and Mr. CANNON) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To protect religious liberty.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1999'.
SEC. 2. PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISE.
(a) GENERAL RULE-Except as provided in subsection (b), a government shall not substantially burden a person's religious exercise-
(1) in a program or activity, operated by a government, that receives Federal financial assistance; or(2) in any case in which the substantial burden on the person's religious exercise affects, or in which a removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes;
even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(b) EXCEPTION-A government may substantially burden a person's religious exercise if the government 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.

(c) REMEDIES OF THE UNITED STATES-Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the United States to deny or withhold Federal financial assistance as a remedy for a violation of this Act . However, nothing in this subsection shall be construed to deny, impair, or otherwise affect any right or authority of the Attorney General or the United States or any agency, officer, or employee thereof under other law, including section 4(d) of this Act , to institute or intervene in any action or proceeding.
SEC. 3. ENFORCEMENT OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.
(a) PROCEDURE-If a claimant produces prima facie evidence to support a claim alleging a violation of the Free Exercise Clause or a violation of a provision of this Act enforcing that clause, the government shall bear the burden of persuasion on any element of the claim; however, the claimant shall bear the burden of persuasion on whether the challenged government practice, law, or regulation burdens or substantially burdens the claimant's exercise of religion.

(b) LAND USE REGULATION-

(1) LIMITATION ON LAND USE REGULATION-
(A) Where, in applying or implementing any land use regulation or exemption, or system of land use regulations or exemptions, a government has the authority to make individualized assessments of the proposed uses to which real property would be put, the government may not impose a substantial burden on a person's religious exercise, unless the government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(B) No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that does not treat religious assemblies or institutions on equal terms with nonreligious assemblies or institutions.

(C) No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination.

SEC. 4. JUDICIAL RELIEF.
(a) CAUSE OF ACTION-A person may assert a violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.(b) ATTORNEYS' FEES-Section 722(b) of the Revised Statutes (42 U.S.C. 1988(b)) is amended-
(1) by inserting `the Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1998,' after `Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993,'; and

(2) by striking the comma that follows a comma.

(c) PRISONERS-Any litigation under this Act in which the claimant is a prisoner shall be subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (including provisions of law amended by that Act ).

(d) AUTHORITY OF UNITED STATES TO ENFORCE THIS ACT-The United States may sue for injunctive or declaratory relief to enforce compliance with this Act .

SEC. 5. RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.
(a) RELIGIOUS BELIEF UNAFFECTED-Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.

(b) RELIGIOUS EXERCISE NOT REGULATED-Nothing in this Act shall create any basis for restricting or burdening religious exercise or for claims against a religious organization, including any religiously affiliated school or university, not acting under color of law.

(c) CLAIMS TO FUNDING UNAFFECTED-Nothing in this Act shall create or preclude a right of any religious organization to receive funding or other assistance from a government, or of any person to receive government funding for a religious activity, but this Act may require government to incur expenses in its own operations to avoid imposing a burden or a substantial burden on religious exercise.

(d) OTHER AUTHORITY TO IMPOSE CONDITIONS ON FUNDING UNAFFECTED- Nothing in this Act shall-

(1) authorize a government to regulate or affect, directly or indirectly, the activities or policies of a person other than a government as a condition of receiving funding or other assistance; or

(2) restrict any authority that may exist under other law to so regulate or affect, except as provided in this Act.

(e) GOVERNMENTAL DISCRETION IN ALLEVIATING BURDENS ON RELIGIOUS EXERCISE-A government may avoid the preemptive force of any provision of this Act by changing the policy that results in the substantial burden on religious exercise, by retaining the policy and exempting the burdened religious exercise, by providing exemptions from the policy for applications that substantially burden religious exercise, or by any other means that eliminates the substantial burden.

(f) EFFECT ON OTHER LAW-In a claim under section 2(a)(2) of this Act , proof that a substantial burden on a person's religious exercise, or removal of that burden, affects or would affect commerce, shall not establish any inference or presumption that Congress intends that any religious exercise is, or is not, subject to any other law.

(g) BROAD CONSTRUCTION-This Act should be construed in favor of a broad protection of religious exercise, to the maximum extent permitted by its terms and the Constitution.

(h) SEVERABILITY-If any provision of this Act or of an amendment made by this Act , or any application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act , the amendments made by this Act , and the application of the provision to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected.

SEC. 6. ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE UNAFFECTED.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of the first amendment to the Constitution prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion (referred to in this section as the `Establishment Clause'). Granting government funding, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under the Establishment Clause, shall not constitute a violation of this Act . As used in this section, the term `granting', used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, does not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.
SEC. 7. AMENDMENTS TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT.
(a) DEFINITIONS-Section 5 of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb-2) is amended-

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `a State, or subdivision of a State' and inserting `a covered entity or a subdivision of such an entity';

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking `term' and all that follows through `includes' and inserting `term `covered entity' means'; and

(3) in paragraph (4), by striking all after `means,' and inserting `conduct that constitutes the exercise of religion under the first amendment to the Constitution; however, such conduct need not be compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief; the use, building, or converting of real property for religious exercise shall itself be considered religious exercise of the person or entities that use or intend to use the property for religious exercise.'.

(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT-Section 6(a) of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb-3(a)) is amended by striking `and State'.

SEC. 8. DEFINITIONS.
As used in this Act -
(1) the term `religious exercise' means conduct that constitutes the exercise of religion under the first amendment to the Constitution; however, such conduct need not be compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief; the use, building, or converting of real property for religious exercise shall itself be considered religious exercise of the person or entities that use or intend to use the property for religious exercise;

(2) the term `Free Exercise Clause' means that portion of the first amendment to the Constitution that proscribes laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion and includes the application of that proscription under the 14th amendment to the Constitution;

(3) the term `land use regulation' means a law or decision by a government that limits or restricts a private person's uses or development of land, or of structures affixed to land, where the law or decision applies to one or more particular parcels of land or to land within one or more designated geographical zones, and where the private person has an ownership, leasehold, easement, servitude, or other property interest in the regulated land, or a contract or option to acquire such an interest;

(4) the term `program or activity' means a program or activity as defined in paragraph (1) or (2) of section 606 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d-4a);

(5) the term `demonstrates' means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion; and

(6) the term `government'-

(A) means-

(i) a State, county, municipality, or other governmental entity created under the authority of a State;

(ii) any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, subdivision, or official of an entity listed in clause (i); and(iii) any other person acting under color of State law; and

(B) for the purposes of sections 3(a) and 5, includes the United States, a branch, department, agency, instrumentality or official of the United States, and any person acting under color of Federal law.

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