C O V E R S T O R Y
Committee of 100 Being Formed to Support RFRA
"I think that we stand today at a point of unparalleled opportunity for the advancement of Christian liberty, religious freedom, and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's go forward and do the job."
Dr. D. James Kennedy
Pastor Emeritus of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
In conjunction with this year's Annual Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters, a special meeting of Christian groups was convened on February 28, 1992, in Washington, D.C. to orient leaders to the need for passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) through Congress. The goal of the meeting was to jump start the formation of a "Committee of 100 for Religious Freedom," which could become the focal point for rallying the Christian community around the battle cry for free exercise of our faith.
The meeting was co-hosted by Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America (CWA), D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Bob Dugan, Public Affairs Director for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation and Coalitions for America.
A number of respected Christian leaders—both political and ecclesiastical—addressed the group. The questions asked during the meeting and the discussions that continued well after the close of the meeting indicated that those in attendance found the information presented informative and thought-provoking.
Attorney Wendell Bird of Atlanta, Georgia, provided background information on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He first explained the historical attitude held in our nation toward the free exercise of religion. Next, he described the compelling interest test used by the Supreme Court to protect the preferred freedoms of religion, speech, and the press. And finally, Mr. Bird recounted the eradication of religion as one of the preferred freedoms by the April 17, 1990, Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith.
The next speaker to address the group was Michael Farris, president of Home School Legal Defense Association. Mr. Farris summarized the outcome of free exercise of religion claims in both federal and state courts since the Smith decision. With the exception of one claim, every appeal based on free exercise has been denied by the federal courts. (The one exception was won by Madalyn Murray O'Hair's daughter.)
Tom Jipping, Legal Analyst for the Free Congress Foundation, followed Michael Farris and addressed the controversy which has arisen over the abortion issue as related to the RFRA. Mr. Jipping and the speakers who followed him stressed the implausibility of the claim raised by certain organizations that passage of the RFRA would create a legal loophole for pro-choice arguments before the courts and the importance of restoring religious liberty to the status of a preferred freedom once again.
Paul Weyrich, a devout Catholic and astute political analyst, closed the meeting by encouraging the evangelicals in the group to take it upon themselves to educate the Catholic bishops and priests in each of their areas. He explained that many of the people in the leadership of the Catholic church do not understand the issues involved in the RFRA; thus, they meekly accept the word of the Catholic Conference that the abortion problem exists. Change will only come about as individual, thinking people are confronted with facts and led to commit to decisions. Mr. Weyrich's action-oriented commitment stirred many in the group to begin the "evangelization" process.
Write to your representative and urge him/her to sponsor H.R.2797.
Your letters are also needed in the Senate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is scheduled for introduction there very soon. Ask your Senator to support the bill by name—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (it will be assigned a Senate bill number when it is introduced). The text of the Senate bill is planned to match H.R.2797.
For more information on the history of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation and a summary of the abortion controversy, please see the Home School Court Report, Volume 7, Number 4.
“As I heard the case argued that day, I don't think I had a clue that the Supreme Court might overturn the standard that had been used for so many years in free exercise cases—cases that involved religious rights like those of ourselves and of others…. Today we have the opportunity either to help win the overturn of this repeal of the Free Exercise Clause or to write its obituary. And I think that by supporting the RFRA this group can join those in the bipartisan group that are willing to put the bill through Congress….”
“RFRA is sufficient without an abortion prohibition in it. We must fight the perversion case-by-case, and based on the track record we have in the courts, we're confident that we'll win.”
“Without religious freedom in this country there is no pro-life movement! When we have religious freedom restricted in this country, there is no pro-life movement. It is gone. … If we do not pass the RFRA, the pro-life movement is in big trouble. I believe with all my heart we are going to end abortion in America, but we are going to end it through the Church. We have got to have religious freedom in this country.”
“The bill tracks the text of the free exercise clause and the traditional interpretations of it. So all it does is reverse the Smith decision and re-establish the standard of review that existed prior to that… We have chosen from the start to avoid any language in this bill that will dictate the outcome in any particular case. That's the beauty of the bill. Therefore, if there is a problem with the RFRA, there is also a problem with the First Amendment. This bill does nothing but bring back the Free Exercise Clause. Anybody that is opposing this bill ought to be proposing a constitutional amendment because they are saying there is a defect in our Constitution.”
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that we are left defenseless when it comes to the fundamental right that protects our entire traditional moral values and framework…. If RFRA passes, will somebody raise an abortion claim? They will. They'll also claim parental rights. That is, they don't want to be parents. They'll also claim involuntary servitude, having to be pregnant for nine months. They'll also claim the kitchen sink. That's nothing new with lawyers; that's their stock and trade. But claiming it is not the same thing as being successful.”