The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was enacted in 1993, was a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision: Employment Division v. Smith (1990) – which severely limited Religious Freedom protections.


Congress passed the RFRA with almost unanimous support, and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.


The RFRA sought to reinstate the legal standard requiring that the government demonstrate a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means if it sought to substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.


However, the scope of the RFRA was significantly curtailed by the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), which held that the RFRA was not applicable to state and local laws. In response to the Boerne decision, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in 2000, which uses a similar standard to the RFRA but is more narrowly tailored to land use regulations and institutionalized persons, and thus has been upheld by the courts.


In addition to the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act, 24 states have their own version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RLUIPA passed by the legislatures, and 10 that have state court decisions that have established Religious Freedom Restoration Act like protections.

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