Since many parents teach their children at home because of religious convictions, the right to freely exercise religious beliefs is an essential component of the right to home school. Home School Legal Defense Association is committed to protecting that right in every arenastate and federal legislatures and the courts.
On June 25, 1997, religious liberty was dealt a devastating blow by the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. Flores. By a 6-3 majority decision, the Court declared the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) unconstitutional, striking down the highest level of protection available to religious liberty at that time.
Following Boerne, state and federal courts have shown decreasing regard for religious freedom. For example:
- pastor-laity confidentiality has been repeatedly violated;
- refusing to teach abortion techniques cost a Catholic hospital state accreditation;
- a church ministry to the homeless was shut down because it was located on the second floor of a building with no elevator; and
- a church was prohibited by a local city ordinance from feeding more than 50 poor people per day.
The list goes on and on. As lower courts follow the Supreme Courts example, religious liberty is being eroded, case by case.
But there is hope.
Resolving the Religious Freedom Crisis at the State Level
In 1993, HSLDA and a broad coalition of organizations worked hard to get the federal RFRA enacted. Since Boerne struck RFRA down, other attempts at the federal level to resolve the religious freedom crisis have been misguided or failed. Therefore, HSLDA, along with several other pro-religious freedom organizations and many state home school groups, is urging all 50 states to pass their own Religious Freedom Acts (RFAs) to counter Boerne.
As of November 1999, nearly a fifth of the states have acted to protect the religious freedom of their citizens. Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas have passed their own state RFAs. Alabama made religious freedom even more secure by specifically amending its state constitution to recognize religious freedom as a fundamental right protected by the compelling interest test. RFAs passed in California and New Mexico, but were vetoed by the governors. New Yorks RFA has passed the house and is headed for the senate. About a dozen more bills worked their way through other state legislatures but ran out of time and will be reintroduced in the year 2000 sessions.
It takes a lot of work to pass RFAs. Thousands calls from home schoolers helped pass RFAs in Arizona, Illinois, South Carolina, and Texas. In fact, Illinois citizens actually persuaded their legislators to override the governors veto.
HSLDAs National Center for Home Education works with religious freedom coalitions in the states and the National State Religious Freedom Coalition; helps draft legislation; lobbies individual state legislators, attorney generals, and governor offices; sends out alerts; and provides testimony at legislative hearings to advance the RFAs.
Home schoolers are already working on introducing and reintroducing Religious Freedom Acts in many states. Legislative battles over RFAs in 2000 are anticipated in Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Our members should be prepared to call their legislators to support their state RFA. HSLDA will be sending legislative alerts and updates on the battle for religious freedom in your state. We urge you to pass on these alerts to your friends and relatives and encourage them to call, as well.
If you know a pro-RFA legislator, contact the National Center and ask for our State Religious Freedom Packet. This packet includes model legislation and arguments for a state RFA.
Dont let one decision by the U.S. Supreme Court virtually strip us of this priceless inalienable right!