AJC Files Brief Supporting Religious Freedom Restoration Act
September 9, 2005 –
The brief was filed in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal (USA), et al.
“Accommodating religious exercise by removing government-imposed substantial burdens on religious exercise is an essential element of a democratic society,” states the brief, signed by a diverse coalition, including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Hindu American Foundation.
The Gonzales case raises the question of whether the religious use of hoasca, a hallucinogenic controlled substance, should be exempt from federal drug laws.
“Free exercise of religion is a hallmark of American life, and Congress was within its power to further safeguard this constitutional protection by preventing government from unduly burdening religious observance,” said Jeffrey Sinensky, AJC’s General Counsel.
RFRA, passed by Congress in 1993, requires that generally applicable laws not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the government can show that the law is in furtherance of a compelling interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.