In 1993, a broad-based coalition of national leaders helped the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—which limited government regulation of religious expression—become law.
But in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's June 25 ruling overturning RFRA, the formerly close-knit coalition shows signs of fraying, as members bicker over what they should do now. Some say the emphasis should be on new federal legislation, while others support local and state laws, and still others lobby for a constitutional amendment. "My concern right now is whether the coalition can stay together," says Steven McFarland, director of the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom.
About the only point anyone agrees on is that the high court chipped away at believers' constitutionally guaranteed rights when it ruled 6 to 3 in favor of Boerne, Texas. The city had used local historic preservation laws to prohibit Saint Peter the Apostle Church from renovating its 74-year-old building for its growing Catholic congregation(CT, April 28, 1997, p. 76).
"The provisions of the federal statute here invoked are beyond congressional authority," wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. "It is this court's precedent,not RFRA, which must control."
RAMPANT REBUKES: Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists,and Americans United for Separation of Church and State quickly condemned the Court's decision, which could make it harder for parents to exempt their children from offensive classes or for prisoners to participate in Bible studies.
"The religious liberty of every American is in peril," says Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs general counsel J. ...1
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