Religious Freedom Protection Act of Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, PA, October 1, 2002


THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA

SENATE BILL No. 1421 Session of 2002

INTRODUCED BY JUBELIRER, MELLOW, CORMAN, MUSTO, LEMMOND, TARTAGLIONE, D. WHITE, MOWERY, GREENLEAF, BOSCOLA, HELFRICK, DENT, THOMPSON, M. WHITE, TOMLINSON, ROBBINS, LAVALLE, BELL, KITCHEN, SCARNATI, GERLACH, KASUNIC, WENGER, C. WILLIAMS, BODACK, CONTI, A. WILLIAMS, WAUGH AND SCHWARTZ, APRIL 30, 2002

SENATOR GREENLEAF, JUDICIARY, AS AMENDED, OCTOBER 1, 2002

AN ACT

Protecting the free exercise of religion; and prescribing the conditions under which government may substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. Short title.

This act shall be known and may be cited as the Religious Freedom Protection Act.

Section 2. Legislative findings.

The General Assembly finds and declares as follows:

Laws and Government actions that are facially neutral toward religion, as well as laws and governmental actions intended to interfere with religious exercise, may have the effect of burdening religious exercise; however, neither State nor local government should substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.

The General Assembly intends that all laws which it has heretofore enacted or will hereafter enact or which have been or will be adopted by political subdivisions and executive agencies acting pursuant to authority asserted to be conferred by statutes enacted by the General Assembly shall be construed so as to avoid the imposition of substantial burdens upon the free exercise of religion without compelling justification.

Section 3. Definitions.

The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

“Correctional employee.” Any public official, employee, agent, contractor or volunteer working for or providing services relating to, a correctional facility or its inmates.

“Demonstrates.” Meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and the burden of persuasion.

“Exercise of religion.” The practice or observance of religion under Section 3 of Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania.

“Government.” The Commonwealth, including its administrative departments, boards and commissions; independent administrative departments, boards and commissions; and any local government, political subdivision, municipality, instrumentality or public official authorized by law in this Commonwealth.

“Person.” Includes a corporation, partnership, other association, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation or natural person.

“Substantially burdens.” A governmental action which:

(1) Significantly constrains or inhibits conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

(2) Significantly curtails a person’s ability to express adherence to that person’s religious faith.

(3) Denies a person a reasonable opportunity to engage in those activities that are fundamental to that person’s religion.

(4) Compels conduct or expression that violates a mandatory tenet of a person’s religious faith.

Section 4. Free exercise of religion protected.

(a) General rule.–Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, including any burden that results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Exceptions.–Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling interest of the government; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.

(c) Claim or defense.–A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened or will be burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding against the government and may obtain appropriate relief from a court.

Section 5. Applicability.

This act shall apply to any State or local law or ordinance and the implementation of that law or ordinance, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted or effective prior to or after the effective date of this act. Any law enacted by the General Assembly after the effective date of this act shall be subject to this act unless the General Assembly expressly excludes that law from this act by specific reference to this act.

Section 6. Construction.

Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any government to prohibit or penalize the holding of any religious belief, or to take any action contrary to the Constitution of Pennsylvania.

Section 7. Free exercise of religion by inmates of correctional facilities.

With respect to claims or defenses asserted under this act by inmates of State, county or municipal correctional facilities, a government shall not be deemed to have violated the provisions of this act if a rule, policy, action, omission or regulation of such correctional facility or its correctional employees is substantially related to legitimate penological interests, including, but not limited to, deterrence of crime, the prudent use of institutional resources, the rehabilitation of prisoners or institutional security.

Section 8. Effective date.

This act shall take effect immediately.

 

Definitions:

3 Different Pennsylvania laws:

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