President Bill Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act on November 16, 1993. The federal law mirrors Indiana’s controversial religious liberty law that is under fire from Democrats and the mainstream media.
“We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties – religious freedom,” Clinton declared at the time.
“The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom – that which originally sparked the full range of the Bill of Rights,” he added.
The federal legislation was a bipartisan effort. Groups supporting the federal law ranged from the National Association of Evangelicals to the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Islamic Prison Foundation.
In a ceremony on the south lawn, Clinton said: “Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historical role that people of faith have played in the history of this country, and the constitutional protections those that profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.”
Clinton said the federal law would do a better job of protecting Americans of all faiths in the practice of their religion.
“What this law basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion,” he explained.
He closed by saying: “Let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions – let us instead respect one another’s faith.”
Currently there are 20 states that have religious freedom laws that share language with Indiana and the federal law.
On Tuesday Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended his law in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal. “The law has stirred a controversy and in recent days has been grossly misconstrued as a license to discriminate,” he writes.
Pence will hold a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. to address Indiana’s religious liberty law.