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
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
(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
(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) 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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(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling
(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
(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 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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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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