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City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997) p.82 Supp


Fourteenth Amendment


Local zoning authorities denied Catholic Archbishop building permit to enlarge church under ordinance governing historic preservation.


Archbishop brought suit challenging ordinance under Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, 877 F.Supp. 355, entered judgment for city, determining that Congress had exceeded scope of its enforcement power under 5 of Fourteenth Amendment in enacting RFRA. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 73 F.3d 1352, reversed, finding RFRA to be constitutional. City sought writ of certiorari.


Whether Congress has the authority to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


Legislation which deters or remedies constitutional violation can fall within sweep of Congress' enforcement power under Fourteenth Amendment even if in process it prohibits conduct which is not itself unconstitutional and intrudes into legislative spheres of autonomy previously reserved to states.


The Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy, held that Freedom Restoration Act exceeded Congress' 5 enforcement powers. Broad as the power of Congress is under the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, RFRA contradicts vital principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and the federal balance.


There must be a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end. Any suggestion that Conress has a substantive, non-remedial power under the Fourteeth Amendment is not supported by our case law. While preventive rules are sometimes appropriate remedial measures, there must be a congurence between the means used and the ends to be achieved. The stringent test RFRA demands of state laws relects a lack or proportionality or congruence between the means adopted and the legitimate end to be achieved. Congress wanted a proportionality test. While preventative rules are sometimes appropriate remedial measures under enforcement clause of Fourteenth Amendment, there must be congruence between means used and ends to be achieved; appropriateness of remedial measures must be considered in light of evil presented. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) exceeds Congress' power under 5 of Fourteenth Amendment to enforce provisions of Fourteenth Amendment; RFRA contradicts principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and federal-state balance, addresses laws of general application that place incidental burdens on religion that are not based on animus or hostility and do not indicate any widespread pattern of religious discrimination, and is not designed to identify and counteract state laws likely to be unconstitutional; RFRA is also out of proportion to supposed remedial or preventative object, displaces laws and prohibits official actions in almost every level of government, and constitutes considerable congressional intrusion into states' traditional prerogatives and general authority to regulate. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 5; Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 2 et seq., 42 U.S.C.A. 2000bb et seq.


votes were as follows: Kennedy wrote majority (Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg, R, Stevens) Justice Stevens filed concurring opinion. Justice Scalia filed opinion concurring in part, in which Justice Stevens joined. Justice O'Connor filed dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined in part. Justices Souter and Breyer filed dissenting opinions. Justice Scalia in his concurrence was there to point out to Justice O'Conner to point out that her interpretation of Smith was not correct.

Created on: Monday, September 27, 1999 at 15:58:20 (PDT)

Copyright © Thompson Resources, 1999, all rights reserved.