“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in 1993 with a voice vote in the Democratic-controlled House and by a 97-2 majority in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and signed by Bill Clinton…Yet now, 21 years later, RFRA and its various state incarnations are the Great Satan and Little Satans of American statutory law, the diabolical gremlins that the Left claims will bring back Jim Crow, spur ‘secessionist’ impulses, and potentially cause the engine of American progress to stutter and stall.” David French
Restore the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
David French, National Review, April 21, 2014, p. 25f
“It is perhaps not too hyperbolic to suggest that in the history of the republic, there has rarely been a bill which more closely approximates motherhood and apple pie. In fact, I know, at least so far, of no one who opposes the legislation.”
With these words, the late Representative Stephen Solarz (D,, N.Y.) described the unstoppable legislative train that was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Passed in 1993 with a voice vote in the Democratic-controlled House and by a 97-2 majority in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and signed by Bill Clinton, RFRA was a bipartisan response to a religious-freedom crisis caused, in part, by a psychedelic drug.
In the late 1980s, Alfred Smith and Galen Black worked at an Oregon drug-rehab clinic and were members of the Native American Church, whose sacraments include smoking peyote. That part of their religion was not compatible with their occupation (or with the law; peyote was a Schedule I controlled substance under Oregon law), and Smith and Black soon found themselves out of a job.
They then did what many millions of Americans do when they lose their jobs: They filed for unemployment compensation. Sadly for religious liberty, their application was denied. Oregon, like virtually every state, doesn’t compensate former employees when they’re terminated for “misconduct,” and if anything constituted “misconduct,” toking up a Schedule 1 controlled substance while employed at a drug-rehab clinic certainly did. Continue reading