The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Senator Hatch and I, and 23 other Senators have introduced, would restore the compelling interest test for evaluating free exercise claims. It would do so by establishing a statutory right that adopts the standards previously, used by the Supreme Court. In essence, the act codifies the requirement for the Government to demonstrate that any law burdening the free exercise of religion is essential to furthering a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest.
The act creates no new rights for any religious practice or for any potential litigant. Not every free exercise claim will prevail. It simply restores the long-established standard of review that had worked well for many years and that requires courts to weigh free exercise claims against the compelling State interest standard. Our bill is strongly supported by an extraordinary coalition of organizations with widely differing views on many other issues. The National Association of Evangelicals, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Coalitions for America, People for the American Way, just to name a few, support the legislation. They don’t often agree on much, but they do agree on the need to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because religious freedom in America is damaged each day the Smith decision stands.
—Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), September 18th, 1992.