Professor Robin Wilson recently spoke with Bloomberg BNA about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Reproduced with permission from The United States Law Week, 85 U.S.L.W. 1343, 4/6/17. Copyright 2017 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com
A court-martialed marine challenging orders to remove Bible verse signs from her desk could provide an intriguing opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify a religious freedom law, scholars told Bloomberg BNA.
If that happens, the court’s analysis could affect the Religious Freedom Restoration Act claims ‘‘of all employees of the federal government, including servicemen and servicewomen, and any private company impacted by federal statutes,’’ Erica Goldberg, a professor at Ohio Northern University law school, Ada, Ohio, told Bloomberg BNA by e-mail.
The act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a), says government action can’t ‘‘substantially burden’’ religious exercise unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of doing so. Here, Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling says a superior officer’s orders to take down the Bible verse signs burdened her religious exercise, in Sterling v. United States, No. 16-814, cert. petition filed 12/23/16.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces below disagreed, upholding her conviction for refusal to obey the orders, in United States v. Sterling, 75 M.J. 407 (C.A.A.F. 2016).
The ‘‘courts of appeal are all over the map on what counts as a substantial burden under RFRA,’’ Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor at the University of Illinois law school, Champaign, Ill., told Bloomberg BNA by e-mail.
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