Religious Liberty Protection Act

July 9, 1999

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved the Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1999. Now it is on to the floor of the House and then over to the Senate. The bill would attempt to establish some sanity and balance in the Supreme Court's rulings on church/state issues.

Finding sanity in some of the High Court's rulings is, to put it mildly, difficult. Passing this bill won't alleviate the problem, but it would be a good step in the right direction. Two years ago in June 1997, the Supreme Court stuck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That bill was passed years before to deal with the Court's ruling in a case out of Oregon involving, of all things, Indian peyote smoking.

In the last two years, various cases have surfaced that point to the need for passage of the Religious Liberty Protection Act. In South Carolina, home Bible studies were found be in violation of local zoning ordinances while other meetings (such as Tupperware parties) were unaffected. In Pennsylvania, 20 Christian day-care centers were required to change their curricula and hiring practices or face termination. In California, death row inmates were prohibited from taking their Bibles to Bible studies.

The Religious Liberty Protection Act would require government to have a compelling reason before it can restrict religious practices. These abuses surfaced after the Supreme Court's original ruling and have surfaced again after the court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Constitution guarantees religious freedom and expression, but the High Court has ruled against many of those practices over the years instead of recognizing the free exercise of religion. This bill requires government to show a compelling reason why a religious practice is unconstitutional and thus keeps the court accountable to the Constitution. That's why the bill should be passed.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.