Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Summary of Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

State Representatives Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Timothy Derickson (R-Hanover Township) will be introducing legislation called the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This legislation will largely resemble the federal RFRA. The Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, aimed to prevent laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion. The RFRA restored the requirement of strict scrutiny application in religious freedom cases, the same test used by the Supreme Court prior to its decision in Unemployment v. Smith (1990). In City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), however, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress lacked the authority to mandate how state laws should be interpreted. As a result, RFRA still applies to the interpretation of federal statutes, but not to state laws. This Supreme Court ruling has encouraged states to implement their own Religious Freedom Restoration Acts to uphold and protect their First Amendment Rights. While Ohio is not one of the seventeen states that have implemented their own RFRA, it is imperative that we become one by passing the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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