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ACLU Strongly Supports Religious Freedom Restoration Act;
Urges Congress to Act Quickly to Restore Protections
Statement of Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union
WASHINGTON, March 4 -- As the President of the American Civil
Liberties Union, I am delighted to join this unusually diverse
coalition that has come together this morning in support of the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
As its name suggests, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is
a truly conservative bill, a bill that would restore our
Constitution's guarantee of free exercise of religion. This
guarantee has proven for more than 200 years to be the boldest and
most successful experiment in religious freedom the world has
Two years ago, however, a wrongly decided case by the United
States Supreme Court threatened to derail that experiment and give
government much greater authority over religious beliefs and
practices than our Founder ever could have imagined.
With its decision in Employment Division v. Smith, the Court
abandoned the lessons of constitutional history, judicial precedent
and its own rules. Today, we urge Congress to undo that damage by
quickly passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act simply and elegantly
addresses the problems caused by that Court decision. It would once
again mandate our most traditional values -- that no government
burden a person's free exercise of religion unless justified by a
compelling interest and tailored to do so by the least restrictive
means to those religious interests.
By adopting this standard, the Act would merely restore what
had been the constitutional standard under the First Amendment
prior to the Smith decision. Although Congress could never take
away a constitutional right, it does have the power to enhance
those rights. Today, we call upon the House and Senate to do just
that -- to restore to the American people what the Supreme Court
has wrongly taken away.
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