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The Rapid Politicization of Religious Liberty

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The Rapid Politicization of Religious Liberty

by Ray Nothstine

Political hysteria has reached a crescendo over a very defined and limited ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby with last week’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision. As many commentators have noted, including the editors at National Review, “That this increase in freedom makes some people so very upset tells us more about them than about the Court’s ruling.”

In deciding to uphold rights of conscience, the court cited The Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In 1993, RFRA passed with unanimous approval by a voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. It passed the Senate by a tally of 97-3 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The legislation originated from a 1990 Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith. The then controversial Supreme Court ruling stated that the state of Oregon could withhold unemployment payments from Native Americans that smoked peyote, even if the acts occurred during a recognized Native American worship service.

The ruling was seen as a possible threat to religious liberty for all and facilitated action by an overwhelming majority of Congress. In fact, Justice Antonin Scalia, while deciding against the Native Americans because of a compelling governmental interest, ( a fundamental test the government did not meet against Hobby Lobby), still expressed a desire for more religious liberty and a less activist court. Scalia noted in his opinion of Division v. Smith that Oregon could change its law to better accommodate Native American religion, “When a legislature acts to accommodate religion, particularly a minority sect, it follows the best of our traditions.”  Continue reading on Zenit >>


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