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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 13, 2018

In Cutter v. Wilkinson, the Supreme Court has rightly strengthened our national commitment to religious liberty for both religious organizations and prisoners. Learn how the Supreme Court did so at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


On past episodes, we have discussed RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  It’s the law with the funny name that protects both the way in which religious organizations use their property and the free exercise of religion by prisoners during their incarceration.

Soon after President Clinton signed the law in 1999, several inmates employed RLUIPA to challenge the failure of the corrections system to accommodate the religious practices of inmates from nonmainstream religions.  On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, RLUIPA was invalidated as a violation of the Constitution.

The Sixth Circuit reasoned that RLUIPA, “impermissibly advances religion by giving greater protection to religious rights than to other constitutionally protected rights” and, by so doing, the statute might just “encourage prisoners to become religious in order to enjoy greater rights.”

The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously reversed that decision.  Writing for the court in Cutter v. Wilkinson, Justice Ginsburg explained that RLUIPA “fits within the corridor of the Religion Clauses [of the First Amendment]” and that it rightly “alleviates exceptional government-created burdens on private religious exercise.”

These “government-created burdens” on religious liberty are the right targets for Congressional action. Whether a prisoner seeking to exercise his faith, or a religious organization being unjustly run out of town by a county commission, RLUIPA strengthens our national commitment to religious liberty.

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

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