Religious rights law being tested in ways not foreseen

Categories: Nation/World

The Supreme Court Nov. 26 will consider whether to accept one or more of four cases it’s being asked to review that deal with faith-based objections to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Part of what’s at stake is a couple of centuries’ worth of history for the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, as well as the durability and reach of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as the 1993 law is known, was the result of concerted lobbying by an interfaith coalition allied to repair what was seen as damage to religious rights from a 1990 Supreme Court ruling. As noted by panelists at a Nov. 7 conference sponsored by the Freedom Forum, in the 20 years since RFRA passed, the debate over religious liberty has shifted in ways its advocates never anticipated. Indeed, some of those who worked side-by-side to pass RFRA now are on opposite sides of those lawsuits over the Affordable Care Act. In short, they disagree about what’s more at risk: the right of people of faith to be free from laws that clash with their religious beliefs, or, the right of people to be protected from laws that affect them being shaped by religious beliefs they don’t hold.