Although the Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA) was created to withstand a constitutional challenge such as the one that knocked down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) last year, a widening rift between social conservatives may ensure the bill never makes it onto the law books.
At issue is RLPA's use of the government's commerce and spending powers to protect religious freedom (CT, Aug. 10, 1998, p. 15).
"[It is] both constitutionally dangerous and religiously offensive to me to treat the worship of God as a commercial transaction," says Mike Farris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a strong critic of RLPA. Farris calls religious conservatives' support of the bill "hypocrisy," because he believes the bill promotes an expanded government. "To me, it's an end-justifies-the-means philosophy at its worst," he says.
Under pressure from HSLDA and its supporters, Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.), House leader of the stalled bill, withdrew the inclusion of interstate commerce provisions in August in an attempt to broaden congressional support. He says he was disappointed to see the provision removed, because it expanded the bill's scope. The Senate version maintains the original wording.
The House version still relies on congressional spending powers, which are used in other legislation to protect religious freedom. The Equal Access Act of 1984 protects student religious groups because public schools receive federal funds.
Steve McFarland, director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, says the bill has been "crippled" by Farris's efforts: "The far Right has done a big favor for the far Left. It's a real irony." The homosexual lobby, which is concerned about religious exemptions to antidiscrimination laws, will be the largest beneficiary, McFarland says.
Copyright © 1998 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingA Tale of Two New York City PastorsOne formed me. The other entertained me.
- From the MagazineI Find Comfort in the Divine WarriorA surprising psalm changed my view on God’s presence during seasons of trial.
- Editor's PickTheological Education Can’t Catch Up to Global Church GrowthUnless seminaries leave the ivory tower for local leaders in the public square. Like these ones have.