The Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Its Rise, Fall, and Current Status Page: 4 of 6
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to do so." The Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion had continued to expand.12
Most important, perhaps, earlier objections to the bill by the U.S. Catholic Conference
and the right-to-life community had been resolved.13 As a result, H.R. 1308 was reported
without dissent by the House Judiciary Committee14 and adopted by the House May 11,
1993, under rules suspension." No Member spoke against the measure on the House
In the Senate, however, a new issue arose - whether prisons ought to be exempted
from the bill. Twenty-two state attorneys general as well as the prison administrators of
all 50 states argued for such an exemption in letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee,
but the Committee chose not to add the exemption. Its report recommending adoption of
RFRA stated simply that "the committee expects that the courts will continue the tradition
of giving due deference to the experience and expertise of prison administrators" and that
the strict scrutiny standard "will not place undue burdens on prison administrators."16
Nonetheless, Sen. Reid (D.-Nev.) offered a prison exemption amendment on the Senate
floor. After vigorous debate the amendment was defeated, 41-58.17 The bill was then
approved, 97-3.18 One week later, on November 3, 1993, the House, by voice vote,
accepted the Senate version of RFRA rather than go to conference.19 President Clinton
signed the measure into law on November 16, 1993.
City of Boerne, Texas v. Flores
In City of Boerne, Texas v. Flores, supra the Supreme Court on June 25, 1997, held
RFRA to be unconstitutional as applied to the states, 6-3. The Court said that as applied
to the states RFRA exceeded Congress' power under section 5 of the 14th Amendment.20
"Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).
12The Coalition eventually comprised 67 organizations ranging across the political and
religious spectrum. Its breadth is shown by its inclusion of such ordinarily disparate groups as
the People for the American Way and the Traditional Values Coalition.
13The operative language of the bill had been slightly modified, a new section making clear
that the bill had no application to issues of public funding for religious institutions or questions
of tax exemption had been added, and the section on standing to sue had been clarified. As a
result, the U.S. Catholic Conference withdrew its objections, although it never formally joined
the Coalition for Free Exercise.
14See H.Rept. 103-88, 103d Cong., 1" Sess. (May 11, 1993).
15See 139 CONG. REC. H2356 - H2363 (daily ed. May 11, 1993).
16See S.Rept. 103-111, 103d Cong., 1" Sess. (1993).
17139 CONG. REC. S 14468 (daily ed. Oct. 27, 1993).
18139 CONG. REC. S 14471 (daily ed. Oct. 27, 1993).
19139 CONG. REC. H8715 (daily ed. Nov. 3, 1993).
20The Fourteenth Amendment, inter alia, bars the states from depriving "any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law." "Liberty" includes religious liberty. Section
5 provides that "[t]he Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the
provisions of this article."
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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Its Rise, Fall, and Current Status, report, January 21, 1999; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc805654/m1/4/: accessed April 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.