X-Message-Number: 2500.1
Subject: Religious Freedom Restoration Act


Public Law 103-141 - Nov. 16, 1993
103d Congress

                             An Act
             To protect the free exercise of religion

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 Freedom Restoration Act of 1993".

Sec. 2. Congressional Findings and Declaration of Purposes.
  (a) Findings. - The Congress finds that -
      (1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of
          religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in
          the First Amendment to the Constitution;
      (2) laws "neutral" toward religion may burden religious exercise as
          surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
      (3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise
          without compelling justification;
      (4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the
          Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that
          the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed
          by laws neutral toward religion; and
      (5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal
          court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances
          between religious liberty and competing prior governmental
  (b) Purposes - The purposes of this Act are -
      (1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in
          Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v.
          Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application
          in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially
          burdened; and
      (2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious
          exercise is substantially burdened by government.

Sec. 3. Free Exercise of Religion Protected.
  (a) In General - Government shall not substantially burden a person's
      exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of
      general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).
  (b) Exception - Government may substantially burden a person's
      exercise of religion only if it 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) Judicial Relief - A person whose religious exercise has been
      burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation
      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.

Sec. 4. Attorneys Fees.
  (a) Judicial Proceedings - Section 722 of the Revised Statutes
      (42 U.S.C. 1988) is amended by inserting "the Religious Freedom
      Restoration Act of 1993," before "or title VI of the Civil Rights
      Act of 1964".
  (b) Administrative Proceedings - Section 504(b)(1)(C) of title 5,
      United States Code, is amended -
      (1) by striking "and" at the end of clause (ii);
      (2) by striking the semicolon at the end of clause (iii) and
          inserting ", and"; and
      (3) by inserting "(iv) the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of
          1993;" after clause (iii).

Sec. 5. Definitions.
  As used in this Act -
    (1) the term "government" includes a branch, department, agency,
        instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under
        color of law) of the United States, a State, or a subdivision
        of a State;
    (2) the term "State" includes the District of Columbia, the
        Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and each territory and possession
        of the United States;
    (3) the term "demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward
        with the evidence and of persuasion; and
    (4) the term "exercise of religion" means the exercise of religion
        under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Sec. 6. Applicability.
  (a) In General - This Act applies to all Federal and State law, and
      the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise,
      and whether adopted before or after the enactment of this Act.
  (b) Rule of Construction - Federal statutory law adopted after the
      date of the enactment of this Act is subject to this Act unless
      such law explicitly excludes such application by reference to
      this Act.
  (c) Religious Belief Unaffected - Nothing in this Act shall be
      construed to authorize any government to burden any religious

Sec. 7. Establishment Clause Unaffected.
  Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or
  in any other way address that portion of the First Amendment
  prohibiting laws respecting the 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.

    Approved November 16, 1993

Legislative History - H.R. 1308 (S. 578)
House Reports: No. 103-88 (Comm. on the Judiciary)
Senate Reports: No. 103-111 accompanying S. 578 (Comm. on the Judiciary)
Congressional Record: Vol. 139 (1993):
  May 11, considered and passed House.
  Oct. 26, 27, S. 578 considered in Senate; H.R. 1308 amended, passed in lieu.
  Nov. 3, House concurred in Senate amendment.
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 29 (1993):
  Nov. 16, Presidential remarks.

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