Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (07/15/1999)

Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1999 - Prohibits a government (defined as a State, an entity created under State authority, the United States, an instrumentality or official of the United States, or any person acting under color of State or Federal law) from substantially burdening a person's religious exercise: (1) in a government-operated program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance; or (2) in any case in which the burden affects, or in which removal of the burden would affect, international or interstate commerce or commerce with Indian tribes. Allows a substantial burden if the government demonstrates that it is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.

(Sec. 3) Places the burden of persuasion, when a claimant alleges a violation of the Free Exercise Clause or this Act, on: (1) the claimant regarding whether a substantial burden exists; and (2) the State regarding any other element of the claim.

Prohibits a State, when applying a land use regulation or exemption in which the State has the authority to make individual assessments of proposed uses, from imposing a substantial burden unless the State demonstrates a that the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. Prohibits a State from: (1) imposing a land use regulation in a way that does not treat religious assemblies or institutions on equal terms with nonreligious assemblies or institutions; (2) imposing a land use regulation that discriminates against any assembly or institution on the basis of religion or religious denomination; or (3) unreasonably excluding or limiting from a jurisdiction assemblies or institutions principally devoted to religious exercise. Declares that adjudication of a claim of a violation of the Free Exercise Clause or this paragraph in a non-Federal forum shall be entitled to full faith and credit in a Federal court only if the claimant had a full and fair adjudication of that claim in the non-Federal forum. Declares that this Act does not preempt State law that is equally or more protective of religious exercise.

(Sec. 4) Empowers a person to assert a violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government, with standing governed by general standing rules under article III of the Constitution. Amends Federal law to add a reference to the Religious Liberty Protection Act of 1998 (sic) to provisions allowing the award of attorney's fees. Applies the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 to litigation under this Act by prisoners. Empowers the United States to sue for injunctive or declaratory relief to enforce this Act.

(Sec. 5) Declares that this Act does not: (1) authorize a State to burden any religious belief; (2) create any basis for burdening religious exercise or for claims against a religious organization not acting under color of law; (3) create or preclude a right of any religious organization to receive government funding or assistance or of any person to receive government funding for a religious activity (but allows this Act to require government to incur expenses in its own operations to avoid imposing a burden or a substantial burden on religious exercise); (4) authorize a government to regulate or affect, directly or indirectly, the activities or policies of a person other than a government as a condition of receiving funding or other assistance; or (5) restrict any authority that may exist under other law to so regulate or affect, except as provided in this Act. Declares that this Act should be construed in favor of broad protection of religious exercise, to the maximum extent permitted by its terms and the Constitution.

(Sec. 6) Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or address the Establishment Clause of the Constitution (prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion).

(Sec. 7) Amends the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to end its applicability to the States and to make it applicable only to the Federal Government, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories and possessions. Redefines exercise of religion to mean any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief, including: (1) the use, building, or converting of real property for religious exercise; and (2) any conduct protected as a religious exercise under the first amendment to the Constitution.

(Sec. 8) Defines, for this Act, religious exercise to mean any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief, including: (1) the use, building, or converting of real property for religious exercise; and (2) any conduct protected as a religious exercise under the first amendment to the Constitution.