Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

saries, by school officials who claimed that they were evidence of gang attire.

How can these government officials interfere in religious practices like these? The answer is the Boerne decision struck down the long-standing compelling interest test. By knocking that out, the Court emasculated the Free Exercise clause and reduced religious liberty to a second-class right. The Supreme Court gave the green light to government agencies to interfere with religious practices. They have done so with gusto.

But the Boerne decision did far more than diminish our religious liberty. It gravely impaired our right to representative government. The courts made a power grab in the Boerne decision, not only ruling that RFRA was unconstitutional, but asserting that the Court and only the Court could interpret the Constitution. Congress, the Court said, could not expand on our constitutional rights.

That position would have horrified the Founding Fathers who deliberately left this issue ambiguous, giving all three branches some role in constitutional interpretation. Thomas Jefferson rightly feared a judicial oligarchy, which is precisely what that decision, left unanswered, would lead to. Professor Russell Hittinger called the Boerne decision a silent coup d'etat.

This unprecedented power grab must be challenged immediately or it will stand as precedent. If RLPA does not pass, the courts will be able to arbitrarily dismiss any legislation that Congress passes in accordance with the people's moral traditions. The courts already muzzled the public in Romer v. Evans when they struck down Colorado's Proposition 2. They then muzzled State legislatures and the governors by saying they had no role in the abortion question in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, overturning Pennsylvania's parental consent law. If Congress fails to challenge the Boerne decision by passing RLPA, the court's coup will be complete. They will have silenced all avenues of dissent from their imperial rule.

As we all know, the Bill of Rights is a floor for our rights and not a ceiling. RLPA protects religious freedom by using two sources of congressional authority explicitly granted to Congress in the Constitution, the Commerce Clause and Spending clause.

While not providing protection for all religious activities, RLPA would provide protection for the vast majority of them. Because not all religious freedoms will be protected in RLPA, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't gain the protection that the law would afford us.

Prison Fellowship Ministries must regain the ability to minister to prisoners using the tools available, just as civil rights forces use these same tools, including the Commerce Clause, to obtain voting rights. Yes, the Constitution already protects religious freedom just as the Constitution granted voting rights, but occasionally Congress must use its explicit powers to reassert these rights.

The few groups who oppose RLPA do not deny the need for a bill to reinstate the protection of RFRA and challenge the Court. They only object to RLPA because it is based on Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. They claim it would expand the Federal Government's intrusion into our lives.

On the contrary, RLPA uses the Commerce Clause to stay the hand of government. The courts have already allowed government agencies to interfere with religious practices. RLPA would inter

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

unde Governontrary, t. The on of gove interfer

et subje in Pellon

lystem b

vene to stop that inference. The Commerce Clause is the basis for all manner of Federal action. Whether one supports or opposes those uses of the Commerce Clause, why on earth with anyone oppose using that to protect our religious liberty?

Because Congress uses its Commerce Clause to reinforce the First Amendment doesn't mean that the people who are protected by it become businesses. That assertion is preposterous. It simply means that Congress has used the Commerce Clause for its authority to restrain civic officials from restricting free exercise.

If a religious practice involves commercial activities, then RLPA would protect it and put the First Amendment preeminent over the secular interest. A showing of compelling State interests would then be necessary before the government could interfere with those practices.

The opponents say they would prefer to use other means, but none of their alternatives are being actively pursued. So by opposing RLPA, they would leave us with no statutory protection for our religious liberty and leave the Court's power grab unanswered. That would be calamitous.

Do we really want to allow our differences over which clause in the Constitution we should use to prevent Congress from acting to protect religious liberty or to reassert our right to self-determination? There is no question where most conservatives come down on this issue.

That is why Dr. Jim Dobson, Gary Bauer, Don Hodel, Chuck Colson, myself, and many others are working feverishly to pass RLPA. Our groups, which reach millions of Americans, are mobilizing our supporters to urge you to approve RLPA swiftly. There is no issue before Congress which is more important to our groups. Under the protection of RLPA, Prison Fellowship and other ministries will have new opportunities to minister to thousands of men and women, giving true rehabilitation through the power of the cross.

Although we are not of the world, we are still in the world and must use whatever incremental approach is necessary to repair the damage done by the Court to religious freedom, just as civil rights had to be established one step at a time.

We owe a great debt to you, Mr. Canady, and to the cosponsors of this legislation who have taken the lead in restoring our religious liberty. If Congress does not pass RLPA this session, we will be left with no statutory protection for our first freedom, religious liberty, and grave damage will be done to our ability to legislate in accordance with our moral traditions.

Thank for you allowing me this opportunity to speak in defense of religious liberty. Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Nolan. [The prepared statement of Mr. Nolan follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF PATRICK NOLAN, PRESIDENT, JUSTICE FELLOWSHIP Thank you for this opportunity to testify before this Committee on this very important subject of Religious Freedom.

I am the president of Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries. Justice Fellowship works to reform the criminal justice system based on the principles of restorative justice found in the Bible. We seek

aticat debt te step at igious

to restore peace to our communities by healing the wounds of victims and renewing the hearts of offenders.

I bring a unique background to Justice Fellowship. Prior to being the president of Justice Fellowship, I served for 15 years in the California State Assembly, four of those as the Assembly Republican Leader. I also was a federal inmate for 25 months in prison and four more months in a halfway house. This was hard on my wife and our three young children. The one solace I had as I served my time was my faith. I know first hand the barriers to religious practices that exist inside our prisons.

But I am not here to simply bring a prison ministry perspective to this very important issue. I am here to show how this issue is important to all Americans, liberals as well as my fellow conservatives. We were disappointed with the Boerne decision and its effect on religious liberty in this country. After the Boerne decision, religious freedom came under a swift attack: Christian day-care centers in Philadelphia were served with notice to comply with local ordinances prohibiting hiring on the basis of religion, California death row inmates were prevented from taking their Bibles to Bible study, Bible studies in South Carolina were broken up by officials claiming the meetings violated a zoning ordinance, and Texas school children were disciplined for wearing rosaries which were claimed to be gang symbols.

How can government officials interfere in religious practices like these? The answer is that in the Boerne decision the court eliminated the long-established standard for protecting religious practices, the "compelling interest* test. By knocking that out, the court emasculated the Free Exercise clause, and reduced religious liberty to a second-class right. The Supreme Court gave the green light to government agencies to interfere with religious practices. And they have done so with gusto.

But the Boerne decision did far more than just diminish our religious liberty. It gravely impaired our right to representative government. The courts made a power grab in the Boerne decision, not only ruling that RFRA was unconstitutional but in asserting that the court, and the court alone may interpret the meaning of the Constitution. Congress, the court said, could not expand constitutional fights! That position would have horrified the founding fathers who deliberately left this issue ambiguous, giving all three branches some role in constitutional interpretation. Thomas Jefferson rightly feared a judicial oligarchy, which is precisely what this decision will lead to. Professor Russell Hittinger called the Boerne decision "a silent coup d'etat.”

This unprecedented power grab must be challenged immediately or it will stand as a precedent. If RLPA does not pass, the courts will be able to arbitrarily dismiss any legislation that Congress passes in accord with the people's moral traditions. The court already muzzled the public in Romer v. Evans, when they overruled Colorado's Proposition 2. And they silenced the states from dissenting in Planned Par. enthood v. Casey, which overturned Pennsylvania's parental consent law. If Congress fails to challenge the Boerne decision by passing RLPA, the court's coup will be complete. They will have eliminated all avenues for dissent from their imperial rule.

As we all know, the Bill of Rights is a floor for our rights and not a ceiling. RLPA protects religious liberty by using two sources of congressional authority explicitly granted to Congress in the Constitution: the commerce clause and the spending clause. While not providing protection for all religious activities, RLPA would provide protection for the vast majority of them.

Because not all religious freedoms will be protected under RLPA, that does not mean we should not seek to gain the protection this law will afford. Prison Fellowship Ministries must regain the ability to minister to prisoners using the tools available just as the civil rights forces used these same tools (including the commerce clause) to obtain voting rights. Yes, the Constitution already protects religious freedom, just as the Constitution granted voting rights, but occasionally Congress must use its explicit powers to reassert these rights.

The few groups who oppose RLPA do not deny the need for a bill to reinstate the protection of RFRA and challenge the court. They only object to RLPA because it is based on Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. They claim it would expand the federal government's intrusion into our lives. To the contrary, RLPA uses the Commerce Clause to stay the hand of government. The courts have already allowed government agencies to interfere in religious practices. RLPA would intervene to stop that.

The Commerce Clause is the basis for a manner of federal action. Whether one supports or oppose those uses of the Commerce Clause, why on earth would anyone oppose using it to protect religious liberty?

“Yes, the authority of the congress is under the Commerce Clause, but because Congress uses that authority to reinforce the First Amendment doesn't mean that people who are protected by it become businesses. That is preposterous. It simply means that Congress has used the Commerce Clause for its authority to restrain civic officials from restricting free exercise. If a religious practice involves commercial activities, then RLPA will protect them, and put the First Amendment preeminent over the secular interest. A showing of a compelling state interest would be necessary before the government could interfere with those practices.

The opponents say they would prefer to use other means, but none of their alternatives are being actively pursued. So, by opposing RLPA, they would leave us with no statutory protection for our religious liberty, and leave the court's power grab unanswered. That would be calamitous. Do we really want to allow our differences over which clause in the Constitution we should use to prevent Congress from acting to protect religious liberty and reassert our right to self-determination? There is no question where most conservatives come down.

This is why Jim Dobson, Gary Bauer, Don Hodel, Chuck Colson, and myself, among others, are working feverishly to pass RLPA. Our groups, which reach millions of Americans, are mobilizing our supporters to urge congress to approve of RLPA swiftly. There is no issue before Congress which is more important to our groups.

Under the protection of RLPA, Prison Fellowship and other ministries will have new opportunities to minister to thousands of men and women, giving true rehabilitation through the power of the Cross. Although we are not of the world, we are still in the world and must use whatever incremental approaches necessary to repair the damage done to religious freedom, just as civil rights had to be established one step at a time.

We owe a great debt to Congressman Charles Canady and the co-sponsors who have taken the lead in restoring religious liberty. If Congress does not pass RLPA this session, we will be left with no statutory protection for our first freedom, religious liberty; and, grave damage will have been done to our ability to legislate in accordance with our moral traditions.

Thank you allowing me this opportunity to speak in defense of religious liberty.

Mr. CANADY. Mr. Dodson. · STATEMENT OF WILLIAM DODSON, DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT

RELATIONS, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION Mr. DODSON. Thank you, Mr. Canady. It is indeed an honor to be here before this committee, for which I have a very high regard. I am the Director of Public Policy and Legal Counsel for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. I hope that we speak for the sentiments of most of our 16 million members; however, I will not stand here or sit here and say we speak for every single member, because I am sure that there are members who disagree, not the least of which might be the individual to my right for whom I have high regard.

Certainly it is not my intent to be here and try to gang up on those who disagree with us on this particular issue. What I am here about is that I believe that religious liberty is a value of much greater weight than some of the concerns which have been expressed against it.

In short, I think that we are in a situation where Congress simply must respond to the Court's decision in Boerne. The Religious Liberty Protection Act, in my opinion, is a good-faith and magnanimous effort at legislation which conforms to the ruling in Boerne. The Religious Liberty Protection Act is an attempt to give religious liberty the greatest protection possible, given the framework within which the Supreme Court has to make that happen.

I know that there are other alternatives, but we feel that in light of the possible alternatives, this is the best practical alternative at this approach.

I don't think that there is momentum in Congress to simply repass RFRA, nor do I think there is momentum at this time for a

constitutional amendment, to mention two of the options; and I am sure there are others.

For some, this is controversial. The RLPA is more controversial than RFRA because of its use of the Commerce and Spending Clauses to extend greater protection to religious liberty. While I am certain that there are many in our convention who would be sympathetic to these concerns, I do believe that the concern for religious liberty overrides any of those concerns with regard to this particular legislation, and a greater weight must be given to the precious value of religious liberty than the value of strictly adhering to a political theory to which we feel no one is morally bound.

I think that the vast majority of Americans are correct in their intuitive sense that religious liberty has lost significant ground in recent years and that the courts in general and the Supreme Court in particular no longer share most Americans' conviction that religious liberty should be cherished and protected to the greatest practical extent.

One very eloquent exception to this is Justice O'Connor, who said in a dissent that the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause is best understood as an affirmative guarantee of the right to participate in religious practices and conduct without impermissible governmental interference even when such conduct conflicts with a neutral, generally applicable law.

Before Smith, our Free Exercise cases were generally in keeping with this idea. Where a law substantially burdened religously motivated conduct, we required government to justify that law with a compelling State interest and to use means narrowly tailored to

compelling sectionwe requifax substantases

The e that inter interested governmtially burd generally Exercei cast doubustice of this p ratifiers liklause. The rec ourt's cos

just simply addhristians or any e Religious Libent before the

The Court's rejection of this principle in Smith has harmed religious liberty. Justice O'Connor concludes that the historical evidence cast doubt on the Court's current interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause. The record, instead, reveals that its drafters and ratifiers likely viewed the Free Exercise Clause as a guarantee that government may not unnecessarily hinder believers from freely practicing their religion, a position consistent with our pre-Smith jurisprudence.

It is difficult to improve on such straightforward prose. Let me just simply add by way of closing, that I believe that if churches or individual Christians or any person of faith came to me in the future and said, okay, under the Religious Liberty Protection Act, we are in a better position to make our argument before the Court that our interest that we are trying to protect has greater protection under this act than it would have without such an act. And my answer would be, unequivocally, yes, this act helps you, and you would be in a worse position if you did not have this act.

Does it cover every situation that RFRA covered? No, it does not. But it offers the greatest protection affordable under the guidelines that the Court has given us, and we strongly support this legislation and encourage you in your efforts to secure its passage.

Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Dodson.
Mr. Farris.

« AnteriorContinuar »