OU Applauds US House for Vote on Religious Liberty Protection Act

Posted on July 19, 1999 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Religious Liberty Protection Act. The measure was introduced by a bipartisan group of members including Rep. Charles Canaday (R-FL) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

The essence of this legislation, supported by a bipartisan group of representatives and by a broad coalition of religious communities, seeks to redress the severe blows dealt to our nation’s “first freedom” by the Supreme Court in recent years. In handing down its ruling in Employment Division vs. Smith and then, more recently, striking down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Court has severely impaired the rights contemplated by the Free Exercise Clause of our Constitution.

Under current law, a state or local government may pass a law or regulation that interferes with a citizen’s ability to practice his or her religion with little justification. “RLPA” will require a government to demonstrate that any religion burdening law is pursuant to a compelling interest and is the means of addressing that interest in the least burdensome manner. Thus, RLPA will enable synagogues and other houses of worship to get a fairer hearing when they seek a zoning variance. It will enable those who object on religious grounds to “loyalty oaths” to seek and obtain jobs that would otherwise require such oaths as a condition of employment. It will, in short, protect minority faiths and their adherents in a variety of situations.

Institute for Public Affairs director Nathan Diament issued the following statement after the House vote:

The United States was founded upon the bedrock principle that any citizen should enjoy the right to freely practice their faith without interference by the state. RLPA is a critical step in securing this fundamental freedom for all Americans. We are very pleased that the House has acted to promote religious liberty in America and we hope the U.S. Senate will take up this critical issue as soon as possible.