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This bill would enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Died in House Committee at Sine Die adjournment. See "Bill History" link below.
On June 25, 1997, by a 6-3 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the City of Boerne v. Flores case, struck down the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). By doing this, the Court gave the lowest level of protection to religious liberty—one of the foundational freedoms of homeschooling.
Under this minimal standard, the State of Arkansas can now override a homeschooler’s or other citizen’s right to freely exercise his religious beliefs merely by proving that its regulation is “reasonable.” Since nearly all state regulations can be determined to be “reasonable,” individuals and churches will lose.
Since the devastating U.S. Supreme Court Boerne decision, state and federal courts across the country have diminished religious freedom in many ways. For example:
- The long-standing practice of pastor-laity confidentiality has been repeatedly violated;
- A Catholic hospital was denied accreditation for refusing to teach abortion techniques;
- There have been conflicts with zoning ordinances, such as the forced termination of a church ministry to the homeless because it was located on the second floor of a building with no elevator; and
- A church was prohibited from feeding more than 50 people per day.
Passage of SB 1119 would raise the standard of protection for religious freedom in Arkansas for individuals, homeschool parents, churches, and all who desire to freely exercise their religious beliefs.
If passed, the Arkansas RFRA would restore the high standard of protection for religious liberty previously guaranteed in the federal RFRA and earlier Supreme Court decisions. Under the Arkansas RFRA, if an individual’s religious belief is in conflict with a state regulation, the state will have to prove, with evidence, that its regulation is essential to fulfill the state’s compelling interest and is the least restrictive means of doing so. If the state fails to carry the burden, the regulation must give way to the individual’s religious freedom.
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