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State RFRAs


12 states have Religious Freedom Restorations Acts (RFRAs):

Alabama Idaho
Arizona Illinois
Connecticut Missouri
Florida New Mexico

Alabama

Ala. Const. amend. 622 (1999)

SECTION II. The Legislature makes the following findings concerning religious freedom:

   (1) The framers of the United States Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the framers of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, also recognizing this right, secured the protection of religious freedom in Article I, Section 3.

   (2) Federal and state laws "neutral" toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise.

   (3) Governments should not burden religious exercise without compelling justification.

   (4) In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), the United States Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion.

   (5) The compelling interest test as set forth in prior court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing governmental interests in areas ranging from public education (pedagogical interests and religious rights, including recognizing regulations necessary to alleviate interference with the educational process versus rights of religious freedom) to national defense (conscription and conscientious objection, including the need to raise an army versus rights to object to individual participation), and other areas of important mutual concern.

   (6) Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C., § 2000bb, to establish the compelling interest test set forth in prior federal court rulings, but in City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997), the United States Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional stating that the right to regulate was retained by the states.

SECTION III. The purpose of the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment is to guarantee that the freedom of religion is not burdened by state and local law; and to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious freedom is burdened by government.

SECTION IV. As used in this amendment, the following words shall have the following meanings:

   (1) Demonstrates. Meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

   (2) Freedom of religion. The free exercise of religion under Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.

   (3) Government. Any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under the color of law) of the State of Alabama, any political subdivision of a state, municipality, or other local government.

   (4) Rule. Any government statute, regulation, ordinance, administrative provision, ruling guideline, requirement, or any statement of law whatever.

SECTION V.
(a) Government shall not burden a person's freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).
(b) Government may burden a person's freedom of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

   (1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

   (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(c) A person whose religious freedom has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.

SECTION VI.
(a) This amendment applies to all government rules and implementations thereof, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this amendment.
(b) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.
(c) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution permitting the free exercise of religion or prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion, or those provisions of Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, regarding the establishment of religion.

SECTION VII.
(a) This amendment shall be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial and deterrent purposes.
(b) If any provision of this amendment or its application to any particular person or circumstance is held invalid, that provision or its application is severable and does not affect the validity of other provisions or applications of this amendment.

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Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§41-1493 to 41-1493.02 (1999)

41-1493. Definitions

In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

1. "Demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

2. "Exercise of religion" means the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

3. "Government" includes this state and any agency or political subdivision of this state.

4. "Political subdivision" includes any county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district, any board, commission or agency of a county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district or any other local public agency.

41-1493.01. Free exercise of religion protected

A. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

C. Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is both:
   1. In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.
   2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

D. A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. A party who prevails in any action to enforce this article against a government shall recover attorney fees and costs.

E. In this section, the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

41-1493.02. Applicability

A. This article applies to all state and local laws and ordinances and the implementation of those laws and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this article.

B. State laws that are adopted after the effective date of this article are subject to this article unless the law explicitly excludes application by reference to this article.

C. This article shall not be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.

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Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §52-571b (1993)

§ 52-571b. Action or defense authorized when state or political subdivision burdens a person's exercise of religion.

(a) The state or any political subdivision of the state shall not burden a person's exercise of religion under section 3 of article first of the Constitution of the state even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) The state or any political subdivision of the state may burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(c) A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened in violation of the provisions of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against the state or any political subdivision of the state.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the state or any political subdivision of the state to burden any religious belief.

(e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect, interpret or in any way address that portion of article seventh of the Constitution of the state that prohibits any law giving a preference to any religious society or denomination in the state. The granting of government funding, benefits or exemptions, to the extent permissible under the Constitution of the state, shall not constitute a violation of this section. As used in this subsection, the term "granting" does not include the denial of government funding, benefits or exemptions.

(f) For the purposes of this section, "state or any political subdivision of the state" includes any agency, board, commission, department, officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision of the state, and "demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

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Florida

Fla. Stat. Ann. §§761.01-761.05 (1998)

761.01 Short title.#&151; This act may be cited as the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998."

761.02 Definitions.#&151;—As used in this act:

(1) "Government" or "state" includes any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official or other person acting under color of law of the state, a county, special district, municipality, or any other subdivision of the state.

(2) "Demonstrates" means to meet the burden of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

(3) "Exercise of religion" means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

761.03 Free exercise of religion protected. #&151;

(1) The government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

   (a) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
   (b) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(2) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief.

761.04 Attorney's fees and costs.—The prevailing plaintiff in any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of this act is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs to be paid by the government.

761.05 Applicability; construction.—

(1) This act applies to all state law, and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the enactment of this act.

(2) State law adopted after the date of the enactment of this act is subject to this act unless such law explicitly excludes such application by reference to this act.

(3) Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize the government to burden any religious belief.

(4) Nothing in this act shall be construed to circumvent the provisions of chapter 893.

(5) Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of s. 3, Art. I of the State Constitution prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion.

(6) Nothing in this act shall create any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not a governmental agency.

(7) Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of s. 3, Art. I of the State Constitution and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States respecting the establishment of religion. This act shall not be construed to permit any practice prohibited by those provisions.

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Idaho

2000 Idaho Sess. Laws 133 and 134 (2000)

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

SECTION 1. LEGISLATIVE INTENT. The Legislature finds that:

(1) The Constitution of the State of Idaho recognizes the free exercise of religion.

(2) Laws that are facially neutral toward religion, as well as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise, may burden religious exercise.

(3) Governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.

(4) This state has independent authority to protect the free exercise of religion by principles that are separate from, complementary to and more expansive than the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

(5) Under its police power, the Legislature may establish statutory protections that codify and supplement rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of Idaho.

(6) The compelling interest test, as set forth in the federal cases of Wisconsin v. Yoder, (1972) and Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, (1963) is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing government interests.

SECTION 2. That Title 73, Idaho Code, be, and the same is hereby amended by the addition thereto of a, to be known and designated as Chapter 4, Title 73, Idaho Code, and to read as follows:

CHAPTER 4 FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED

73-401. DEFINITIONS. As used in this chapter unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with evidence, and persuasion under the standard of clear and convincing evidence.

(2) "Exercise of religion" means the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

(3) "Government" includes this state and any agency or political subdivision of this state.

(4) "Political subdivision" includes any county, city, school district, taxing district, municipal corporation, or agency of a county, city, school district, or municipal corporation.

(5) "Substantially burden" means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practices.

73-402. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED. (1) Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state, even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

(2) Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

(3) Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is both:

   (a) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest;
   (b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(4) A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. A party who prevails in any action to enforce this chapter against a government shall recover attorney's fees and costs.

(5) In this section, the term "substantially burden" is intended solely to ensure that this chapter is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

73-403. APPLICABILITY. (1) This chapter applies to all state laws and local ordinances and the implementation of those laws and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether enacted or adopted before, on or after the effective date of this chapter.

(2) State laws that are enacted or adopted on or after the effective date of this chapter are subject to this chapter unless the law explicitly excludes application by reference to this chapter.

(3) This chapter shall not be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.

73-404. SEVERABILITY. If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application and to this end the provisions of this act are severable.

SECTION 3. An emergency existing therefore, which emergency is hereby declared to exist, this act shall be in full force and effect on and after its passage and approval.

2000 Idaho Sess. Laws 134

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

SECTION 1. That Section 3, as added by Senate Bill No. 1394, enacted by the Second Regular Session of the Fifty-fifth Idaho Legislature, be, and the same is hereby amended to read as follows:

SECTION 3. An emergency existing therefore, which emergency is hereby declared to exist, this act shall be in full force and effect on and after its passage and approval.

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Illinois

775 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 35/1 et seq. (1998)

§ 775 ILCS 35/5. Definitions

Sec. 5. Definitions. In this Act:

"Demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

"Exercise of religion" means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

"Government" includes a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under color of law) of the State of Illinois or a political subdivision of the State, including a home rule unit.

§ 775 ILCS 35/10. Finding and purposes

Sec. 10. Finding and purposes. (a) The General Assembly finds the following:

   (1) The free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and inalienable right secured by Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois.

   (2) Laws "neutral" toward religion, as well as laws intended to interfere with the exercise of religion, may burden the exercise of religion.

   (3) Government should not substantially burden the exercise of religion without compelling justification.

   (4) In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement under the First Amendment to the United States constitution that government justify burdens on the exercise of religion imposed by laws neutral toward religion.

   (5) In City of Boerne v. P.F. Flores, 65 LW 4612 (1997) the Supreme court held that an Act passed by Congress to address the matter of burdens placed on the exercise of religion infringed on the legislative powers reserved to the states under the Constitution of the United States.

   (6) The compelling interest test, as set forth in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), and Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing governmental interests.

(b) The purposes of this Act are as follows:

   (1) To restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), and Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), and to guarantee that a test of compelling governmental interest will be imposed on all State and local (including home rule unit) laws, ordinances, policies, procedures, practices, and governmental action in all cases in which the free exercise of religion is substantially burdened.

   (2) To provide a claim or defense to persons whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by government.

§ 775 ILCS 35/15. Free exercise of religion protected

Sec. 15. Free exercise of religion protected. Government may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (i) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and (ii) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

§ 775 ILCS 35/20. Judicial relief

Sec. 20. Judicial relief. If a person's exercise of religion has been burdened in violation of this Act, that person may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and may obtain appropriate relief against a government. A party who prevails in an action to enforce this Act against a government is entitled to recover attorney's fees and costs incurred in maintaining the claim or defense.

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Missouri

§§1.302 and 1.307 R. S. Mo. (2003)

1.302. 1. A governmental authority may not restrict a person's free exercise of religion, unless:

(1) The restriction is in the form of a rule of general applicability, and does not discriminate against religion, or among religions; and

(2) The governmental authority demonstrates that application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest, and is not unduly restrictive considering the relevant circumstances.

2. As used in this section, "exercise of religion" shall be defined as an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

3. As used in this section "demonstrates" means meets the burden of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.

1.307.

1. Sections 1.302 to 1.307 apply to all state and local laws, resolutions and ordinances and the implementation of such laws, resolutions, and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of sections 1.302 to 1.307.

2. Nothing in sections 1.302 to 1.307 shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief, except that nothing in these sections shall be construed to establish or eliminate a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution based on a federal, state, or local civil rights law.

3. Nothing in sections 1.302 to 1.307 shall be construed as allowing any person to cause physical injury to another person, to possess a weapon otherwise prohibited by law, to fail to provide monetary support for a child or to fail to provide health care for a child suffering from a life threatening condition.

4. "Relevant circumstances" may include legitimate penological interests needed to protect the safety and security of incarcerated persons and correctional facilities, but shall not include reasonable requests by incarcerated individuals for the opportunity to pray, reasonable access to clergy, use of religious materials that are not violent or profane, and reasonable dietary requests.

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New Mexico

N. M. Stat. Ann. §§ 28-22-1 to 28-22-5 (2000)

§ 28-22-2. Definitions

As used in the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act [28-22-1 to 28-22-5 NMSA 1978]:

   A. "free exercise of religion" means an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief; and

   B. "government agency" means the state or any of its political subdivisions, institutions, departments, agencies, commissions, committees, boards, councils, bureaus or authorities.

§ 28-22-3. Religious freedom protected; exceptions

A government agency shall not restrict a person's free exercise of religion unless:

   A. the restriction is in the form of a rule of general applicability and does not directly discriminate against religion or among religions; and

   B. the application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

§ 28-22-4. Private remedies

   A. A person whose free exercise of religion has been restricted by a violation of the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act [28-22-1 to 28-22-5 NMSA 1978] may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government agency, including:

    (1) injunctive or declaratory relief against a government agency that violates or proposes to violate the provisions of the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and

    (2) damages pursuant to the Tort Claims Act [41-4-1 to 41-4-27 NMSA 1978], reasonable attorney fees and costs.

   B. Immunity from liability of the government agency and its employees is waived for an action brought pursuant to this section.

§ 28-22-5. Construction of act

Nothing in the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act [28-22-1 to 28-22-5 NMSA 1978] authorizes a government agency to burden a person's free exercise of religion. The protection of the free exercise of religion granted in that act is in addition to the protections granted by federal law and the state and federal constitutions. The New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not affect the grant of benefits or tax exemptions to religious organizations nor does it impair any other exemptions granted by law.

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Oklahoma

51 Okl. St. §§251-258 (2000)

§ 252. Definitions

In this act:

1. "Demonstrates" means the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion under the standard of clear and convincing evidence are met;

2. "Exercise of religion" means the exercise of religion under Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;

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

4. "Frivolous claim" means a claim which lacks merit under existing law and which cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;

5. "Governmental entity" means any branch, department, agency, or instrumentality of state government, or any official or other person acting under color of state law, or any political subdivision of this state;

6. "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; and

7. "Substantially burden" means to inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.

§ 253. Burden upon free exercise of religion

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

B. No governmental entity shall substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is:

   1. Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and

   2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

§ 254. Correctional facility regulation—Compelling state interest

A state or local correctional facility's regulation must be considered in furtherance of a compelling state interest if the facility demonstrates that the religious activity:

   1. Sought to be engaged by a prisoner is presumptively dangerous to the health or safety of that prisoner; or

   2. Poses a direct threat to the health, safety, or security of other prisoners, correctional staff, or the public.

§ 255. Construction

A. Nothing in this act shall be construed to:

   1. Authorize any government entity to substantially burden any religious belief;

   2. Authorize same sex marriages, unions, or the equivalent thereof; or

   3. Affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of Article 1, Section 2, and Article 2, Section 5, of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, or the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion.

B. Granting governmental funds, benefits, or exemptions to the extent permissible under paragraph 3 of subsection A of this section shall not constitute a violation of this section. As used in this subsection, "granting government funds, benefits, or exemptions" shall not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions. This provision does not in and of itself require vouchers.

§ 256. Remedies—Costs—Attorney Fees

A. Any person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened by a governmental entity in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may obtain declaratory relief or monetary damages.

B. Any person who prevails in any proceeding to enforce this act against a governmental entity may recover reasonable costs and attorney fees.

§ 257. Frivolous or fraudulent claims

Any person found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have abused the protection of this act by filing a frivolous or fraudulent claim may be assessed the court costs of the governmental entity and may be enjoined from filing further claims under this act without leave of court.

§ 258. Governmental authority

Notwithstanding any provision of this act, a governmental entity has no less authority to adopt or apply laws and regulations in a nondiscriminatory manner concerning zoning, land use planning, traffic management, urban nuisance, or historic preservation, than the authority of the governmental entity that existed under the law prior to the passage of this act. This section does not affect the authority of a governmental entity to adopt or apply laws and regulations as that authority has been interpreted by any court.

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Pennsylvania

71 Penn. Stat. §§2401-2407 (2002)

§ 2403. Definitions

The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Agency." A Commonwealth agency or a non-Commonwealth agency. The term shall not include the courts of this Commonwealth or a grand jury acting pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 4548 (relating to powers of investigating grand jury).

"Commonwealth agency." The Commonwealth, including the Executive Department and its boards and commissions; an independent administrative department, board and commission; or a public official thereof, acting under color of State law.

"Correctional employee." A public official, employee, agent, contractor or volunteer working for or providing services relating to a correctional facility or its inmates.

"Free exercise of religion." The practice or observance of religion under section 3 of Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania.

"Non-Commonwealth agency." A political subdivision, municipal authority or any other local government instrumentality authorized by law, or a public official thereof, acting under the color of State law.

"Person." An individual or a church, association of churches or other religious order, body or institution which qualifies for exemption from taxation under section 501(c)(3) or (d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Public Law 99-514, 26 U.S.C. § 501).

"Substantially burden." An agency action which does any of the following:

   (1) Significantly constrains or inhibits conduct or expression mandated by a person's sincerely held religious beliefs.

   (2) Significantly curtails a person's ability to express adherence to the person's religious faith.

   (3) Denies a person a reasonable opportunity to engage in activities which are fundamental to the person's religion.

   (4) Compels conduct or expression which violates a specific tenet of a person's religious faith.

§ 2404. Free exercise of religion protected

(a) GENERAL RULE.—EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (B), AN AGENCY SHALL NOT SUBSTANTIALLY BURDEN A PERSON'S FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING ANY BURDEN WHICH RESULTS FROM A RULE OF GENERAL APPLICABILITY.

(b) EXCEPTIONS.—AN AGENCY MAY SUBSTANTIALLY BURDEN A PERSON'S FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION IF THE AGENCY PROVES, BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE, THAT THE BURDEN IS ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:

    (1) In furtherance of a compelling interest of the agency.

    (2) The least restrictive means of furthering the compelling interest.

§ 2405. Actions

(a) CLAIM OR DEFENSE.—A PERSON WHOSE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION HAS BEEN BURDENED OR LIKELY WILL BE BURDENED IN VIOLATION OF SECTION 4 MAY ASSERT THAT VIOLATION AGAINST AN AGENCY AS A CLAIM OR DEFENSE IN ANY JUDICIAL OR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDING.

(b) NOTICE.—NOTWITHSTANDING SUBSECTION (A) AND EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (C), A PERSON MAY NOT BRING AN ACTION IN COURT TO ASSERT A CLAIM UNDER THIS ACT UNLESS, AT LEAST 30 DAYS PRIOR TO BRINGING THE ACTION, THE PERSON GIVES WRITTEN NOTICE TO THE AGENCY BY CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, INFORMING THE AGENCY OF ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:

    (1) The person's free exercise of religion has been or is about to be substantially burdened by an exercise of the agency's governmental authority.

    (2) A description of the act or refusal to act which has burdened or will burden the person's free exercise of religion.

    (3) The manner in which the exercise of the governmental authority burdens the person's free exercise of religion.

(c) EXCEPTION.—A PERSON MAY BRING AN ACTION IN COURT WITHOUT PROVIDING THE NOTICE REQUIRED BY SUBSECTION (B) IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OCCUR:

    (1) The exercise of governmental authority which threatens to substantially burden the person's free exercise of religion is imminent.

    (2) The person was not informed and did not otherwise have knowledge of the exercise of the governmental authority in time to reasonably provide notice.

    (3) The provision of the notice would delay an action to the extent that the action would be dismissed as untimely.

    (4) The claim or defense is asserted as a counterclaim in a pending proceeding.

(d) LIMITATION.—PRIOR TO THE EXPIRATION OF THE 30-DAY PERIOD REFERRED TO IN SUBSECTION (B), AN AGENCY WHICH RECEIVES NOTICE IN ACCORDANCE WITH SUBSECTION (B) MAY REMEDY THE SUBSTANTIAL BURDEN ON THE PERSON'S FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION.

(e) JURISDICTION.—A PERSON ALLEGING A VIOLATION OF SECTION 4 BY A COMMONWEALTH AGENCY MAY BRING AN ACTION IN COMMONWEALTH COURT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS SECTION AND THE APPLICABLE RULES OF COURT. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS SECTION AND APPLICABLE RULES OF COURT, A PERSON ALLEGING A VIOLATION OF SECTION 4 BY A NON-COMMONWEALTH AGENCY MAY BRING AN ACTION IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE COUNTY WHERE THE NON-COMMONWEALTH AGENCY'S OFFICE IS LOCATED.

(f) REMEDIES.—IF A PERSON ASSERTS A CLAIM OR DEFENSE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS SECTION AND PROVES, BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE, THAT THE PERSON'S FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION HAS BEEN BURDENED OR LIKELY WILL BE BURDENED IN VIOLATION OF SECTION 4, A COURT MAY AWARD THE PERSON SUCH DECLARATORY OR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AS MAY BE APPROPRIATE. NO COURT SHALL AWARD MONETARY DAMAGES FOR A VIOLATION OF THIS ACT. UNLESS THE COURT FINDS THAT THE ACTIONS OF THE AGENCY WERE DILATORY, OBDURATE OR VEXATIOUS, NO COURT SHALL AWARD ATTORNEY FEES FOR A VIOLATION OF THIS ACT.

(g) INMATE CLAIMS.—TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED UNDER THE FEDERAL LAW, AN AGENCY SHALL BE DEEMED NOT TO HAVE VIOLATED THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT IF A RULE, POLICY, ACTION, OMISSION OR REGULATION OF A CORRECTIONAL FACILITY OR ITS CORRECTIONAL EMPLOYEES IS REASONABLY RELATED TO LEGITIMATE PENOLOGICAL INTERESTS, INCLUDING THE DETERRENCE OF CRIME, THE PRUDENT USE OF INSTITUTIONAL RESOURCES, THE REHABILITATION OF PRISONERS OR INSTITUTIONAL SECURITY.

§ 2406. Applicability

(a) GENERAL RULE.—THIS ACT SHALL APPLY TO ANY STATE OR LOCAL LAW OR ORDINANCE AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THAT LAW OR ORDINANCE, WHETHER STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE AND WHETHER ADOPTED OR EFFECTIVE PRIOR TO OR AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT. ANY LAW ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT SHALL BE SUBJECT TO THIS ACT UNLESS THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY EXPRESSLY EXCLUDES THAT LAW FROM THIS ACT BY SPECIFIC REFERENCE TO THIS ACT. THIS ACT SHALL NOT APPLY TO ACTIONS OF THE COURTS OF THIS COMMONWEALTH OR TO ANY RULES OF PROCEDURE OR TO COMMON LAW ADOPTED BY THE COURTS OF THIS COMMONWEALTH.

(b) EXCEPTIONS.—NOTWITHSTANDING SUBSECTION (A) AND SUBJECT TO EXISTING RELIGIOUS EXCEPTIONS, THIS ACT SHALL NOT APPLY TO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

   (1) Any criminal offense under 18 Pa.C.S. (relating to crimes and offenses) or under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L. 233, No. 64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which is graded as a felony or a misdemeanor.

   (2) Any provision of 75 Pa.C.S. (relating to vehicles) which does any of the following:

    (i) Requires the licensing of motor vehicle operators.

    (ii) Requires the registration of motor vehicles.

    (iii) Requires financial responsibility for motor vehicle accidents.

    (iv) Protects the public from the unsafe operation of motor vehicles or from dangerous conditions on the highways.

    (3) Any provision of law which requires physicians or professional nurses to be properly licensed in order to practice their profession.

    (4) Any provision of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L.31, No.21), known as the Public Welfare Code, which prevents the endangerment of the health or safety of individuals in facilities which are licensed or supervised under the Public Welfare Code.

    (5) Any provision of the act of July 19, 1979 (P.L.130, No.48), known as the Health Care Facilities Act, which requires the safe construction or operation of licensed health care facilities.

    (6) Any provision of the act of November 10, 1999 (P.L.491, No.45), known as the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act, which prevents the endangerment of health and safety.

    (7) Any provision of law which requires the reporting of abuse.

§ 2407. Construction

Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any government to prohibit or penalize the holding of any religious belief or to take any action contrary to the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Pennsylvania. Nothing in this act shall be construed to require a religiously affiliated health care facility to provide, allow, participate in or refer for health care services which are contrary to the religious beliefs or practices of the facility, provided that the facility shall provide notice to its patients of its policies regarding those health care services. Back to top

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws §§42-80.1-1 to 42-80.1-3 (1993)

§ 42-80.1-2. Definitions

As used in this chapter: "Governmental authority" means any department, agency, commission, committee, board, council, bureau or authority or any subdivision of state or municipal government.

§ 42-80.1-3. Religious freedom protected

(a) Except as provided for in subsection (b), a governmental authority may not restrict a person's free exercise of religion.

(b) A governmental authority may restrict a person's free exercise of religion only if:

nbsp;  (1) The restriction is in the form of a rule of general applicability, and does not intentionally discriminate against religion, or among religions; and

nbsp;  (2) The governmental authority proves that application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest, and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

§ 42-80.1-4. Remedies

In any civil action alleging a violation of this chapter, the court may:

nbsp;  (1) Afford injunctive and declaratory relief against any governmental authority which commits a proposes to commit a violation of this chapter, and;

nbsp;   (2) Award a prevailing plaintiff damages.

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South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. §§1-32-10 to 1-32-60 (1999)

§ 1-32-20. Definitions.

In this chapter:
(1) "Demonstrates" means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
(2) "Exercise of religion" means the exercise of religion under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 2 of the State Constitution.
(3)"Person" includes, but is not limited to, an individual, corporation, firm, partnership, association, or organization.
(4) "State" means the State of South Carolina and any political subdivision of the State and includes a branch, department, agency, board, commission, instrumentality, entity, or officer, employee, official of the State or a political subdivision of the State, or any other person acting under color of law.

§ 1-32-30. Purposes of chapter.

The purposes of this chapter are to:
(1) restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), and Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), and to guarantee that a test of compelling state interest will be imposed on all state and local laws and ordinances in all cases in which the free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) provide a claim or defense to persons whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by the State.

§ 1-32-40. Restriction on state's ability to burden exercise of religion.

The State may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the State demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is:
(1) in furtherance of a compelling state interest; and
(2) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling state interest.

§ 1-32-45. Inmate litigation.

This chapter does not affect the application of and must be applied in conjunction with Chapter 27 of Title 24, concerning inmate litigation.

§ 1-32-50. Burden on exercise of religion a claim or defense; attorney's fees.

If a person's exercise of religion has been burdened in violation of this chapter, the person may assert the violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding. If the person prevails in such a proceeding, the court shall award attorney's fees and costs.

§ 1-32-60. Applicability; construction.

(A) This chapter applies to all state and local laws and ordinances and the implementation of those laws and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this act.

(B) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to authorize the State to burden any religious belief.

(C) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address:

nbsp;   (1) that portion of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion;

nbsp;   (2) that portion of Article I, Section 2 of the State Constitution prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion.

(D) Granting state funding, benefits, or exemptions, to the extent permissible under the constitutional provisions enumerated in subsection (C)(1) and (2), does not constitute a violation of this chapter.

As used in this subsection, "granting", with respect to state funding, benefits, or exemptions, does not include the denial of government funding, benefits, or exemptions.

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Texas

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§110.001-110.012 (1999)

§ 110.001. Definitions

(a) In this chapter:

nbsp;   (1) "Free exercise of religion" means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief. In determining whether an act or refusal to act is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief under this chapter, it is not necessary to determine that the act or refusal to act is motivated by a central part or central requirement of the person's sincere religious belief.

nbsp;  (2) "Government agency" means:

      (A) this state or a municipality or other political subdivision of this state; and

      (B) any agency of this state or a municipality or other political subdivision of this state, including a department, bureau, board, commission, office, agency, council, or public institution of higher education.

(b) In determining whether an interest is a compelling governmental interest under Section 110.003, a court shall give weight to the interpretation of compelling interest in federal case law relating to the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

§ 110.002. Application

(a) This chapter applies to any ordinance, rule, order, decision, practice, or other exercise of governmental authority.

(b) This chapter applies to an act of a government agency, in the exercise of governmental authority, granting or refusing to grant a government benefit to an individual.

(c) This chapter applies to each law of this state unless the law is expressly made exempt from the application of this chapter by reference to this chapter.

§ 110.003. Religious Freedom Protected

(a) Subject to Subsection (b), a government agency may not substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply if the government agency demonstrates that the application of the burden to the person:

   (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

   (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

(c) A government agency that makes the demonstration required by Subsection (b) is not required to separately prove that the remedy and penalty provisions of the law, ordinance, rule, order, decision, practice, or other exercise of governmental authority that imposes the substantial burden are the least restrictive means to ensure compliance or to punish the failure to comply.

§ 110.004. Defense

A person whose free exercise of religion has been substantially burdened in violation of Section 110.003 may assert that violation as a defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding without regard to whether the proceeding is brought in the name of the state or by any other person.

§ 110.005. Remedies

(a) Any person, other than a government agency, who successfully asserts a claim or defense under this chapter is entitled to recover:

   (1) declaratory relief under Chapter 37;

   (2) injunctive relief to prevent the threatened violation or continued violation;

   (3) compensatory damages for pecuniary and nonpecuniary losses; and

   (4) reasonable attorney's fees, court costs, and other reasonable expenses incurred in bringing the action.

(b) Compensatory damages awarded under Subsection (a)(3) may not exceed $ 10,000 for each entire, distinct controversy, without regard to the number of members or other persons within a religious group who claim injury as a result of the government agency's exercise of governmental authority. A claimant is not entitled to recover exemplary damages under this chapter.

(c) An action under this section must be brought in district court.

(d) A person may not bring an action for damages or declaratory or injunctive relief against an individual, other than an action brought against an individual acting in the individual's official capacity as an officer of a government agency.

(e) This chapter does not affect the application of Section 498.0045 or 501.008, Government Code, or Chapter 14 of this code.

§ 110.006. Notice; Right to Accommodate

(a) A person may not bring an action to assert a claim under this chapter unless, 60 days before bringing the action, the person gives written notice to the government agency by certified mail, return receipt requested:

   (1) that the person's free exercise of religion is substantially burdened by an exercise of the government agency's governmental authority;

   (2) of the particular act or refusal to act that is burdened; and

   (3) of the manner in which the exercise of governmental authority burdens the act or refusal to act.

(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), a claimant may, within the 60-day period established by Subsection (a), bring an action for declaratory or injunctive relief and associated attorney's fees, court costs, and other reasonable expenses, if:

   (1) the exercise of governmental authority that threatens to substantially burden the person's free exercise of religion is imminent; and

    (2) the person was not informed and did not otherwise have knowledge of the exercise of the governmental authority in time to reasonably provide the notice.

(c) A government agency that receives a notice under Subsection (a) may remedy the substantial burden on the person's free exercise of religion.

(d) A remedy implemented by a government agency under this section:

   (1) may be designed to reasonably remove the substantial burden on the person's free exercise of religion;

    (2) need not be implemented in a manner that results in an exercise of governmental authority that is the least restrictive means of furthering the governmental interest, notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter; and

    (3) must be narrowly tailored to remove the particular burden for which the remedy is implemented.

(e) A person with respect to whom a substantial burden on the person's free exercise of religion has been cured by a remedy implemented under this section may not bring an action under Section 110.005.

(f) A person who complies with an inmate grievance system as required under Section 501.008, Government Code, is not required to provide a separate written notice under Subsection (a). In conjunction with the inmate grievance system, the government agency may remedy a substantial burden on the person's free exercise of religion in the manner described by, and subject to, Subsections (c), (d), and (e).

(g) In dealing with a claim that a person's free exercise of religion has been substantially burdened in violation of this chapter, an inmate grievance system, including an inmate grievance system required under Section 501.008, Government Code, must provide to the person making the claim a statement of the government agency's rationale for imposing the burden, if any exists, in connection with any adverse determination made in connection with the claim.

§ 110.007. One-Year Limitations Period

(a) A person must bring an action to assert a claim for damages under this chapter not later than one year after the date the person knew or should have known of the substantial burden on the person's free exercise of religion.

(b) Mailing notice under Section 110.006 tolls the limitations period established under this section until the 75th day after the date on which the notice was mailed.

§ 110.008. Sovereign Immunity Waived

(a) Subject to Section 110.006, sovereign immunity to suit and from liability is waived and abolished to the extent of liability created by Section 110.005, and a claimant may sue a government agency for damages allowed by that section.

(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), this chapter does not waive or abolish sovereign immunity to suit and from liability under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.

§ 110.009. Effect on Rights

(a) This chapter does not authorize a government agency to burden a person's free exercise of religion.

(b) The protection of religious freedom afforded by this chapter is in addition to the protections provided under federal law and the constitutions of this state and the United States. This chapter may not be construed to affect or interpret Section 4, 5, 6, or 7, Article I, Texas Constitution.

§ 110.010. Application to Certain Cases

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a municipality has no less authority to adopt or apply laws and regulations concerning zoning, land use planning, traffic management, urban nuisance, or historic preservation than the authority of the municipality that existed under the law as interpreted by the federal courts before April 17, 1990. This chapter does not affect the authority of a municipality to adopt or apply laws and regulations as that authority has been interpreted by any court in cases that do not involve the free exercise of religion.

§ 110.011. Civil Rights

(a) Except as provided in Subsection (b), this chapter does not establish or eliminate a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution under a federal or state civil rights law.

(b) This chapter is fully applicable to claims regarding the employment, education, or volunteering of those who perform duties, such as spreading or teaching faith, performing devotional services, or internal governance, for a religious organization. For the purposes of this subsection, an organization is a religious organization if:

   (1) the organization's primary purpose and function are religious, it is a religious school organized primarily for religious and educational purposes, or it is a religious charity organized primarily for religious and charitable purposes; and

   (2) it does not engage in activities that would disqualify it from tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as it existed on August 30, 1999.

§ 110.012. Grant to Religious Organization Not Affected

Notwithstanding Section 110.002(b), this chapter does not affect the grant or denial of an appropriation or other grant of money or benefits to a religious organization, nor does it affect the grant or denial of a tax exemption to a religious organization.

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