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Press Release

Acting Attorney General Whitaker Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker today released the following statement:

“Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), an important law protecting one of our most fundamental freedoms. RFRA was approved by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, passing the House unanimously and approved 97 to 3 in the Senate, and signed into law by President Clinton.

“RFRA ensures that our foundational freedom of religious liberty is protected: the right to believe, worship, and practice our faiths according to the dictates of our consciences. 

“RFRA requires that whenever actions by the federal government would impose a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise, the government must give reasons for doing so. And unless the government has a compelling reason, and the government action burdens religion no more than is necessary, RFRA requires that the government accommodate religious freedom.

“It is a remarkable thing for any government to impose such restraints on itself. It is much easier for a government to operate in a manner it believes to be most effective and disregard the costs on individual liberty and conscience. The enactment of RFRA was a bold affirmation that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are precious and deserving of protection, even if this may make things harder for the government. 

“The enactment of RFRA was also a re-affirmation of America’s promise to protect religious minorities, which stretches back to George Washington’s promise to the Jewish Congregation in Newport that they would find not only tolerance but equal rights in America, and President Lincoln’s granting of conscientious objector status to Quakers during the Civil War. Minority faiths have been protected by RFRA over the past 25 years.

“Today we celebrate the anniversary of this law and renew our commitment to protecting the freedom of all Americans to exercise their religious convictions openly, in speech and actions. Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice will continue defend the rights of people of faith.”

Updated November 16, 2018

Press Release Number: 18-1520