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Religious Freedom Restoration Act Passed


Congress passes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, that rejected a longstanding principle that the government had to show a “compelling state interest” to interfere with religious practices. Two American Indians were fired as drug rehabilitation counselors and denied jobless benefits because they had ingested peyote, an illegal hallucinogenic drug, as part of their religious ceremonies. Under the new act, the government must follow strict standards before it can restrict the free exercise of religion.