a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
Updated August 29, 2006

Model State Religious Freedom Restoration Act

A BILL to amend the Code of    (State)    by adding a section numbered       , relating to the preservation of religious freedom.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of    (State)   :

Section 1. That the Code of    (State)    is amended by adding a section numbered                   as follows:

§                  . Religious freedom preserved; definitions; applicability; construction; remedies.

A. Except as provided in subsection B, no government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

B. No government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is (i) essential to further a compelling governmental interest and (ii) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

C. As used in this section:

“Demonstrates” means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion under the standard of clear and convincing evidence.

“Exercise of religion” means the exercise of religion under Article   , §    of the Constitution of    (State)   , the    (State)    Act for Religious Freedom (§      et seq.), and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“Fraudulent claim” means a claim that is dishonest in fact or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as a to harass the opposing party.

“Frivolous claim” means a claim that completely lacks merit under existing law and cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.

“Government entity” means any branch, department, agency, instrumentality of state government, or any official or other person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision of the state.

“Prevails” means to obtain “prevailing party” status as defined by courts construing the federal Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

“Substantially burden” means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.

D. Nothing in this section shall be construed to (i) authorize any government entity to burden any religious belief or (ii) affect, interpret or in any way address those portions of Article      , §       of the Constitution of    (State)   , the    (State)    Act for Religious Freedom (§      et seq.), and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion. Granting government funds, benefits or exemptions, to the extent permissible under clause (ii) of this subsection shall not constitute a violation of this section. As used in this subsection, “granting” used with respect to government funding, benefits, or exemptions, shall not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.

E. A person whose religious exercise has been burdened by government in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may obtain such declaratory relief, and/or monetary damages as may properly be awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction. A person who prevails in any proceeding to enforce this section against a government entity may recover his reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rule of standing under Article ___ of the Constitution of    (State)   . The provisions of this subsection relating to attorney’s fees shall not apply to criminal prosecutions.

F. Any person found by a court with jurisdiction over the action to have abused the protections of this section by filing a frivolous or fraudulent claim may be assessed the government entity’s court costs, if any, and may be enjoined from filing further claims under this section without leave of court.