1997 June 25

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Held Unconstitutional


In Boerne v. Flores, decided on this day, the Supreme Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), enacted on November 16, 1993, was unconstitutional as it applied to the states. The controversy originated with the Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, decided on April 17, 1990, in which the Court upheld the denial of unemployment benefits to Alfred Smith because he used peyote. Smith claimed that he used peyote as part of a traditional Native American religious ritual.

That decision outraged leaders from many different religions across the country, leading to the enactment of RFRA. The Boerne case involved a zoning dispute in the city of Boerne, Texas, near San Antonio, in which the city sought to prevent the expansion of a church because it was located in an historic district; the church responded that the city could not restrict its free exercise of religion under RFRA. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the city, holding that RFRA exceeded the powers allowed it under the Fourteenth Amendment.

RFRA remained in effect with regard to the federal government, and was the basis for the religious freedom challenge to the Affordable Care Act in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on June 30, 2014.

Read: Carolyn Long, Religious Freedom and Indian Rights: the Case of Oregon v. Smith (2000)

Learn more about the Free Exercise of Religion: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!