Restore Freedom of Religion

Article excerpt

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed religious freedom in 1990, a broad spectrum of Americans has sought to overturn the ruling. Soon, the Senate is expected to vote on a plan, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill should pass, so religious practices are not subjected to the whims and fancies of government regulation.

The act would protect religion from restrictive laws or regulations unless the government can meet two tests. First, it must show a compelling governmental interest; second, it must show that the law or regulation in question is the least restrictive way to achieve that compelling interest. That test had been in place for many years and had worked well until the Supreme Court weakened it in 1990.

In that case, a sharply divided court found that the state of Oregon had the right to ban the sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church. Two members of the church who had lost their jobs for using peyote in religious ritual had sought relief from the court. But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, rejected their point of view and the earlier, more reasonable balance between the law and religion. …