Religious freedom is no luxury, but is a basic right of a free people.” It is “one of the cornerstones of our democracy” and one of our country’s most “cherished traditions.”
These are the words of then-Representative Charles Schumer as he championed his bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), on the floor of the House in 1993.
The Supreme Court had struck a blow to religious freedom in 1993 in Employment Division v. Smith by lowering the standard of judicial review for government infringements on religious free exercise. In a rare show of robust bipartisanship, Congress responded by overwhelmingly passing RFRA. President Clinton observed on signing the law that “our Founders . . . knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive.”
This month, the Supreme Court has a second shot at rectifying its decision in Smith — this time, with the aid of RFRA — when it considers two challenges to the HHS mandate, from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood…