The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 1993

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H. R. 1308

One Hundred Third Congress of the United States of America

AT THE FIRST SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,

the fifth day of January, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-three

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

interests.

(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—

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H. R. 1308—2

(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

belief.

SEC. 7. ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE UNAFFECTED.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret,

or in any 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

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H. R. 1308—3

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.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.

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