Many parents choose homeschooling as a result of their religious beliefs. Religious liberty in America has long been a cherished and fundamental right. However, in recent decades, reaction to displaying that religion in the public sphere has grown increasingly hostile.
In the early days of our country, Founding Father James Madison understood that government, our political servant, could not be a competent authority in religious affairs, and that no “civil magistrate” in any branch of government could ever be a “competent judge of religious truth.”
In an attempt to protect Americans from numerous U.S. Supreme Court
rulings reducing religious freedom, Congress enacted the Religion Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993. The RFRA was a federal law that invoked the Fourteenth Amendment to require state and federal governments to use a specific test to afford a higher level of protection for religious freedom. In the 1997 case City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, the Supreme Court ruled the RFRA unconstitutional, saying that while Congress can enact legislation enforcing the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, Congress cannot dictate to the states the way in which to do that.
Today Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) have been needed to protect against undue state and local government interference in religious exercise. Twenty states have passed RFRAs, which mirror the federal RFRA of 1993. Maine is not one of them.
RFRAs simply allow religious people to challenge government activities that encroach on their beliefs. They have to show that the government action substantially burdens a religious belief that they sincerely hold. If they prove that, it falls to the government to show that the challenged action is justified as the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.