Freedom of Religion Bill Passes in U.S. House

“Freedom of Religion Bill Passes in U.S. House,” Ensign, Aug. 1993, 77

Freedom of Religion Bill Passes in U.S. House

As urged by members of numerous faiths, including the LDS Church, the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 11 a bill to make it tougher for the government to interfere with freedom of religion.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed on a voice vote, is designed to overturn a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that allowed laws to interfere with religion if they had what was regarded as being rational reasons for doing so and if they did not specifically target any group. Under previous rules, such interference was allowed only if government could prove it had a dire “compelling” interest, and then used in the least restrictive manner possible.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, went to Washington last year to officially seek action by endorsing the bill. He testified in hearings that the early persecution of the Church shows the need for strong laws to prevent interference with small groups that may not be popular.

“If past is prologue, the forces of local, state, and federal governmental power, now freed from the compelling-interest test, will increasingly interfere with the free exercise of religion,” Elder Oaks said in favor of this new bill.