Summarized by Kent Larsen
Religious-protection bill backed by legal experts
Deseret News 9Sep99 L1
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new version of the LDS Church-supported
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was largely struck down by
the U.S. Supreme Court, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives
and is being shepherded through the U.S. Senate by Utah Senator Orrin
Hatch. More importantly, constitutional experts say that this time
around the bill should pass constitutional muster.
Four constitutional experts testified recently before Hatch's Senate
Judiciary Committee that the bill should pass a review by the Supreme
Court if challenged. One of those testifying, LDS Church member and
University of Nevada-Las Vegas law professor Jay S. Bybee, was a
harsh critic of the previous act. Bybee says that the new bill is
much improved. "Congress has resolved many of the problems that lead
me to oppose RFRA and the court to strike it down."
Of particular interest to members of the LDS Church are provisions in
the act that would make it more difficult for local governments to
use zoning laws to restrict religions from building. Another expert,
University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock, says that the act
addresses situations such as the use of zoning laws in Forest Hills,
Tennessee to prevent the LDS Church from building a Temple there.
"Four large churches sat on or near the intersection of two major
arterial roads - one Methodist, one Presbyterian, and two Churches of
Christ. One of these churches closed, and the Mormons bought the
property. Yet the city refused permission to locate a Mormon temple
on the site."