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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, three times a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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Jun 11, 2018

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires a state to provide a compelling justification before it may substantially burden the free exercise of religion. But, just what is a substantial burden? Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires a state to provide a compelling justification before it may substantially burden the free exercise of religion. But, just what is a substantial burden?

In 1963, the Supreme Court said that putting someone to the choice of “following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting benefits, on the one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work, on the other hand,” is a substantial burden.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit explained in 1988 that for a city to force a house of worship to move outside city limits and forbid ministry-owned property to be used for religious services substantially burdens religious liberty.

The Eleventh Circuit, in 2004, explained that, “a ‘substantial burden’ is akin to significant pressure which directly coerces the religious adherent to conform his or her behavior accordingly” and can result “from pressure that tends to force adherents to forego religious precepts or from pressure that mandates religious conduct.”

In 2007, the First Circuit defined “substantial burden” as “one that ‘puts substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.’”

Our country’s longstanding dedication to freedom carefully protects the right of citizens to freely exercise their religion free from a government-imposed substantial burden.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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