But prison concerns stall religious-freedom bill.
Adoption of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in the Senate continues to be delayed, the latest holdup owing to concerns that the legislation will wreak havoc in prisons and cost millions of dollars.
The proposed law says that federal and state governments must show a “compelling reason for restricting any religious practices by restoring the compelling interest test that the Supreme Court abandoned in 1990” when it ruled in the controversial Oregon Employment Division v. Smith case.
California State Attorney General Daniel E. Lungren says the proposed law should be amended to address the possible “detriment of security and order” that may be created with its implementation. Says Lungren, “If an inmate demands organically grown food washed in distilled water, the instruments of satanic ritual, illustrations and text urging racial hatred, conjugal visits, or chateaubriand, sherry, and marijuana—all subjects of actual, protracted litigation—prison administrators will not be able to justify denial of the requests under the new standard.”
In addition, Nevada State Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa believes that RFRA in its present form will increase “the need for evidentiary hearings [which] will severely tax government attorneys and personnel.” She opined that unamended, RFRA “will increase court costs—which can run as high as $10,000 a day—and increase prison costs. Transportation costs will also be increased by the additional trials. The lost work time for defendants is also a significant consideration.”
Long legislative road
RFRA has been stuck in Congress for two-and-a-half years. From the beginning, the bill has had the backing of a broad coalition of religious ...1
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