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For week ended September 12, 1999 Posted 19 Sep 1999

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Religious-protection bill backed by legal experts

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."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information