Congressional and evangelical supporters of a revived Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA) saw the bill stall in early June. Congressional sources expect the measure to make it to the floor of the House but say passage is uncertain due to "principled opposition" from some members.
The bill, first introduced by Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.) last year (CT, Oct. 5, 1998, p. 27), died because of a rift among conservatives. The measure had been introduced after a series of Supreme Court and lower court decisions challenged the rights of religious believers and institutions in matters of zoning, family care, and church administration.
Proponents say RLPA would restore traditional safeguards, limiting the state's interference to instances where there is a "compelling" interest and ensuring the state will act in a way that is least intrusive to religious free-exercise rights.
"Americans deserve to have their religious beliefs and practices protected," Canady said at a May committee hearing. "Religious freedom is too important to be trampled by insensitive bureaucracy or bad policy."
However, there are some evangelicals who question RLPA's reliance on the "commerce clause" of the Constitution as a means to safeguard religious freedoms. Under that clause, RLPA was framed to overcome Supreme Court objections that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act exceeded the legislative authority of Congress.
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