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Religious Freedom Restoration Act In Governor's Hands

May 14, 2003
By: Matt Talhelm
State Capital Bureau

The governor has a bill in front of him today that is aimed at protecting religion freedom from government interference.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act establishes standards that all state agencies must follow when it comes to religious practices.

Opponents of the bill say the First Amendment freedom of religion already does enough to protect religious rights.

The bill's supporters, like Representative Richard Byrd, say the act is needed to make sure the government doesn't overstep the bounds between church and state.

Actuality: byrdrel2.wav
RunTime: :15
OutCue: "...governmental impact."

Contents: "This will not only clarify for the courts and the governmental agencies where they have the ability to establish regulations and where they don't, but it will also now provide protections for legitimate religious beliefs from undue governmental impact."

If the governor signs the act, it will also allow inmates in jail greater access to religious services and materials.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is now in the hands of the governor despite some concern that it may allow people to justify crimes in the name of religion.

The House passed the Act which supporters say will prevent the state from infringing upon religious practices.

Supporters on the House floor said a series of court cases have gradually decreased the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion.

They say the state needs to step in and stop infringing upon religious freedoms.

Opponents like Democrat Barbara Fraser says this Act just opens the door for people to use religion as an excuse in court.

Actuality: maryrel1.wav
RunTime: :13
OutCue: "...thing to do."
Contents: "It opens it up for perhaps parents who abuse their children to say, in the names of my religion it is okay for me to beat my child and consequently it's my belief that that's the right thing to do."

The bill also grants inmates greater access to religious materials and practices in jail.

The state makes a promise to citizens of Missouri - your freedom of religion is safe in the Show Me State.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act received final approval in the House Wednesday.

The act requires the state to examine any law or ordinance to determine whether or not it infringes upon the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

The bill's opponents say it's the federal government's job to protect religious freedom.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Richard Byrd, says the state needs to protect religion in Missouri.

Actuality: byrdrel1.wav
RunTime: :14
OutCue: "...religious freedoms."
Contents: "When we're talking about religious freedom, we need to show that we're serious. We have this uniform standard that we're establishing today and we need to hold our governmental authorities accountable to respect a person's individual religious freedoms."

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act now faces the governor's pen.