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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), in its original and amended versions, represents Congress's side of an exchange with the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of state interference with individual religious practice. The RFRA was an attempt to ameliorate a ruling of the Court that came down on the side of the state in such conflicts. This entry summarizes that dialogue.

The Original Law and Response

Congress enacted the RFRA in 1993 in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith (1990). In that case, the Court held that people could no longer seek exemption from neutral, generally applicable laws on the grounds that those laws violated their First Amendment rights. Congress pointed out that “laws ‘neutral’ toward religion ...

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