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City of Boerne v. Flores (docket #: 95-2074) (1997)  [Findlaw]

Argument Date 02/19/1997
Decided 02/19/1997
Supreme Court Vote 6-3
Supreme Court Ruling Establishment Clause claim upheld; The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is unconstitutional because it exceeds the authority of Congress under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
IssueWhether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires governments to: (1) Refrain from limiting religious freedom, unless they have a compelling societal reason for doing so; and (2) Select the least intrusive method to achieve their goal, if they need to restrict religious freedom, exceeds Congressional power.
Case Summary & Additional Resources
Majority Opinion Kennedy, J. (joined by Rehnquist, C.J., and Stevens, Thomas, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, and in all but Part III-A%1 of Scalia, J., joined)
Concurring Opinion Stevens, J., & Scalia, J., concurring in part (joined by Stevens, J.)
Dissenting Opinion O’Connor, J. (joined by Breyer, J., except as to a portion of Part I), & Souter, J., & Breyer, J.
Lower Court 5th Circuit
Lower Court Ruling Establishment Clause claim denied.
Oral Arguments audio record  [Oyez]
For Petitioner
Marci A. Hamilton

For Respondent
Douglas Laycock for P.F. Flores

Walter Dellinger, for U.S.

For Amicus
Brief of Clarendon Foundation, San Antonio Conservation Society, et al (for Petitioners)

Prison Fellowship Ministries, Members of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senates, States of Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, et al (for Respondents)

Opinion - Lower Court
For Petitioner
P.F. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonia and U.S. v. City of Boerne, Texas, 73 F.3d 1352 (C.A. 5 (Tex.), 1996)

"Excerpts from Decision Voiding Congressional Act on Religious Freedom," New York Times, Jun. 26, 1997, sect. D, pg 24
Dunlap, David W., "Church v. State: Landmark Case: Supreme Court ruling may weaken land-use controls over religious institutions." New York Times, Feb. 27, 1997, sect. R, pg. 1
Glendon, Mary Ann, "Religious Freedom and Common Sense," New York Times, Jun. 30, 1997, sect. A, pg. 11
Greenhouse, Linda, "Benchmarks of Justice; In 9 Extraordinary Months, the High Court Developed a Vast Panorama of Landmarks," Jul. 1, 1997, sect. A, pg. 1
Greenhouse, Linda, "Court Accepts Case Tied to Separation of Powers," New York Times, Oct. 16, 1996, sect. B, pg. 8
Greenhouse, Linda, "High Court Hears Arguments About Congress’s Power to Expand Constitutional Rights,"” New York Times, Feb. 20, 1997, sect. B, pg. 11
Greenhouse, Linda, "High Court Voids A Law Expanding Religious Rights; Puts Limit on Congress 6-3 Decision is Warning to Branches of Government on Power of Justices," New York Times, Jun. 26, 1997, sect. A, pg. 1
Greenhouse, Linda, "Laws Are Urged to Protect Religion," Jul. 15, 1997, sect. A, pg. 15
Chemerinsky, Erwin, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: PRINCIPLES & POLICIES (2nd ed., 2002), sect.
Conkle, Daniel, "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act: The Constitutional Significance of an Unconstitutional Statute," 56 Montana Law Review 39 (1995)
Laycock, Douglas & Thomas, Oliver, "Interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," 73 Texas Law Review 209 (1994)
Lupu, Ira, "Why the Congress was Wrong and the Court was Right - Reflections on City of Boerne v. Flores," 39 William & Mary Law Review 793 (1998)
Smolla, Rodney, "The Free Exercise of Religion After the Fall: The Case for Intermediate Scrutiny," 39 William & Mary Law Review 925 (1998)
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