July 14, 1999
The Administration strongly supports H.R. 1691, the Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA), which would protect the religious liberty of all Americans. RLPA would, in many cases, forbid state and local governments from imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, unless they could demonstrate that imposition of such a burden is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest. This statutory prohibition would, in the cases in which it applies, embody the test that was applied by the Supreme Court as a matter of Constitutional law prior to 1990 and that is applied now to the Federal Government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RLPA will, in large measure, restore the principles of RFRA, which was enacted with broad Congressional support in 1993. It is necessary for Congress to enact RLPA since the Supreme Court invalidated the application of RFRA to state and local governments RLPA is carefully crafted to address the Court's constitutional rulings. The Department of Justice has reviewed H.R. 1691 and has concluded that, while RLPA raises important and difficult Constitutional questions, nevertheless it is constitutional under governing Supreme Court precedents. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that any remaining concerns about the bill, including clarification of civil rights protections, are addressed and that it can be enacted into law as quickly as possible.