Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

This law topic summary was last updated on: December 20, 2016

In 1993, President Clinton signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which created a statutory model for those with religious objections to laws of general applicability to avoid compliance based on religious objection. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in City of Boerne v. Flores that RFRA is not applicable to the states. Since then, 21 states have passed their own RFRA laws. A handful of state RFRAs differ from the federal RFRA and include language which allows religious freedom to be raised as a defense in lawsuits between private citizens.

Connecticut and Rhode Island became the first states to pass their own RFRAs in 1993.Both laws mirrored the federal version by not allowing religious freedom to be raised as a defense in lawsuits between private citizens.

In 1998, state RFRAs were enacted in Alabama, Illinois, and Florida. Like the states before them, Alabama and Illinois tracked the federal version. Florida, however, included language that would potentially allow religious freedom to be raised as a defense in lawsuits between private citizens.

The following year, Arizona, South Carolina, and Texas all passed their own versions of the RFRA. The law in South Carolina did not specify whether a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding had to be against the government, which would potentially allow for private citizens to file suit against other private citizens. The Texas RFRA allowed for a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the proceeding was brought in the name of the state or by any other person. However, the legislation included provisions to ensure that the RFRA couldn’t be misused to disregard civil rights protections against discrimination.

Idaho, New Mexico and Oklahoma all passed RFRA laws in 2000. Each piece of legislation mirrored the federal law by not allowing religious freedom to be raised as a defense in lawsuits between private citizens. Oklahoma included language specifying that the state did not authorize same-sex marriage or unions.

Pennsylvania and Missouri enacted RFRA laws in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Like Texas, the Missouri law included provisions to ensure civil rights protections against discrimination.

In 2007, Virginia enacted its own version of the RFRA. Tennessee followed suit shortly after in 2009. Neither law specified whether a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding had to be against the government. The following year, Louisiana became the next state to enact a RFRA. The Louisiana RFRA allowed for a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the proceeding was brought in the name of the state or by any other person.

Kansas and Kentucky were the next states to embrace RFRA legislation in 2013. Once again, neither law specified whether a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding had to be against the government. The following year, the Mississippi RFRA (which mirrored the federal RFRA) was enacted.

In 2015, Indiana and Arkansas faced criticism after passing their own versions of RFRA. Both laws included language allowing religious freedom to be raised as a defense in a lawsuit between private citizens. Indiana ultimately amended their law to include civil rights protections, while Arkansas scrapped their law and replaced it with a RFRA that tracks the federal version. (For a more detailed discussion of religious freedom legislation, click here.)

 

Laws

Title Number State Proposed Status
Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Act 975) Act 975 Arkansas Mar 9, 2015 Current
Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 1228) HB 1228 Arkansas Feb 2, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 (SB 440) SB 440 Oklahoma Feb 2, 2015 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Religious Freedom Act (S 127) S 127 South Carolina Jan 13, 2015 Failed to Pass
New Mexico Bill Amending Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 55) HB 55 New Mexico Jan 19, 2016 Failed to Pass
Indiana Bill Regarding Fundamental Rights (SB 66) SB 66 Indiana Jan 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Colorado Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (HB 1180) HB 1180 Colorado Failed to Pass
Kentucky Bill Regarding Protected Rights Under RFRA (SB 180) SB 180 Kentucky Feb 18, 2016 Failed to Pass
Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act Okla. Stat. tit. 51, §251, et seq. Oklahoma Current
Rhode Island Religious Freedom Restoration Act Rhode Island Current
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act SB 2681 Mississippi Jan 20, 2014 Current
New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act HB 20 New Mexico Mar 28, 2000 Current
Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (HB 2203) HB 2203 Kansas Feb 1, 2013 Current
Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act Illinois Current
West Virginia Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (SB 487) SB 487 West Virginia Feb 13, 2015 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (HB 2830) HB 2830 West Virginia Feb 20, 2015 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (HB 2508) HB 2508 West Virginia Jan 13, 2016 Failed to Pass
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (H.R. 1308) H.R. 1308 Federal Mar 11, 1993 Current
North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 550) SB 550 North Carolina Mar 26, 2015 Proposed
North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 348) HB 348 North Carolina Mar 24, 2015 Proposed
Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act Va. Code §57-2.02 Virginia Jan 16, 2007 Current
Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 12) Mo. Rev. Stat. §1.302 Missouri Jan 8, 2003 Current
Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act Tex. Civ. Prac. & Remedies Code §110.001, et seq. Texas Current
Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 279) Ky. Rev. Stat. §446.350 Kentucky Feb 7, 2013 Current
Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act Tenn. Code §4-1-407 Tennessee Feb 18, 2009 Current
Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act Pa. Stat. tit. 71, §2401-2407 Pennsylvania Apr 30, 2002 Current
Louisiana Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (SB 606) La. Rev. Stat. §13:5231, et seq. Louisiana Mar 29, 2010 Current
Indiana Amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 50) SB 50 Indiana Jan 6, 2015 Current
Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) SB 101 Indiana Jan 6, 2015 Current
Mississippi Bill Clarifying State RFRA Regarding Religious Leaders (SB 2093) SB 2093 Mississippi Jan 26, 2016 Failed to Pass
Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 4) SB 4 Michigan Jan 20, 2015 Proposed
Virginia Religious Freedom Bill (SB 41) SB 41 Virginia Dec 15, 2015 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 4012) HB 4012 West Virginia Jan 26, 2016 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (SB 11) SB 11 West Virginia Jan 13, 2016 Failed to Pass
Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998 Fla. Stat. § 761.01, et seq. Florida Current
Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 837) HB 837 Georgia Jan 25, 2016 Failed to Pass
Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 129) SB 129 Georgia Feb 17, 2015 Failed to Pass
Connecticut Religious Freedom Restoration Act Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-571b Connecticut Current
Florida Bill Regarding the Protection of Religious Freedom (HB 401) HB 401 Florida Oct 21, 2015 Failed to Pass
Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment Ala. Const., Art. 1, section 3.01 Alabama Current
Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 229) SB 229 Arkansas Feb 5, 2015 Failed to Pass
Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 568) SB 568 Indiana Jan 20, 2015 Failed to Pass
Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 1632) HB 1632 Indiana Jan 22, 2015 Failed to Pass
Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 615) HB 615 Montana Mar 17, 2015 Failed to Pass
Texas Religious Freedom Constitutional Amendment Proposal (HJR 55) HJR 55 Texas Dec 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
Texas Religious Freedom Constitutional Amendment Proposal (HJR 125) HJR 125 Texas Mar 11, 2015 Failed to Pass
Texas Religious Freedom Constitutional Amendment Proposal (SJR 10) SJR 10 Texas Nov 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
Wyoming Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 83) HB 83 Wyoming Jan 22, 2015 Failed to Pass
Washington Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 1217) HB 1217 Washington Jan 13, 2017 Proposed
Colorado Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (HB 1013) HB 1013 Colorado Jan 11, 2017 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Freedom of Conscience Protection Act (SB 19) SB 19 West Virginia Feb 8, 2017 Failed to Pass
Oklahoma Bill Amending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 530) SB 530 Oklahoma Feb 6, 2017 Proposed
Hawaii Bill Relating to Religious Rights (HB 823) HB 823 Hawaii Jan 25, 2017 Failed to Pass
Arkansas Government Nondiscrimination Act (HB 2232) HB 2232 Arkansas Mar 6, 2017 Failed to Pass
Texas ‘Free to Believe Act’ (HB 2779) HB 2779 Texas Mar 2, 2017 Proposed
Georgia State Funding of Local Governments Bill (HB 257) HB 257 Georgia Feb 7, 2017 Failed to Pass