United on Religious Freedom

We often beg to differ with Bill Clinton, so we beg to agree when he uses presidential debating time to say: "One of my proudest moments was signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government's got to bend over backwards before we interfere with religious practice."

Three years after that signing on Nov. 16, 1993, the act is under attack, primarily from state and local officials who feel that broad deference for religion hinders their regulatory powers. The US Supreme Court has accepted a case allowing it to review the law.

The law was demanded to overturn a court ruling from 1990. That ruling abandoned the constitutionally based requirement of demonstrating a "compelling state interest" to justify restrictions on religious freedom.

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Thus, debater Clinton's stand for liberty was freshly needed. Bob Dole might have made it a sound bite by muttering "Liberal!" But he, like 96 other senators, voted for a measure supported as vital by a remarkable coalition of religious and political conservatives, moderates, and liberals.

"Even in the legislative process miracles can happen," said Clinton then. Americans don't need miracles, just their constitutional rights.

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