Newly updated November 2023!
For churches, the First Amendment is the first line of defense when government laws or actions intersect with church activities. While the protection of religious belief is absolute under the First Amendment, the protection of religious exercise is less robust, due largely to court decisions made throughout the past 30 years.
The United States Congress attempted to reinforce certain protections for religious exercise when it enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993. Some—but not all—states have adopted similar laws. Courts in each state have also reached differing conclusions in cases involving religious exercise.
Given the complexities and confusion caused by these developments, this resource was created to help church leaders understand the legal protections available to them based upon where they live and operate.
Inside this resource, church leaders will find:
- An overview article explaining the recent history of laws and court decisions pertaining to religious freedom
- A chart detailing the 23 states that have a RFRA, as well as states with a high-level court decision addressing religious exercise
- Individual state reports explaining additional insights
This information will help church leaders better understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to religious activities.