First Liberty Briefing: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religious Protests

First Liberty Briefing: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religious Protests July 25, 2017

Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protect religious acts of protests outside of the Supreme Court? Learn how a U.S. District Court decided the case at

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Sometimes the substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise comes literally to the steps of the Supreme Court.Does RFRA protect religious protests outside of the Supreme Court

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently dismissed a lawsuit alleging that preventing anti-war activists from demonstrating outside the Supreme Court violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The activists noted in their complaint that as a “post-denominational Christian” and “Unity Christian,” their religious beliefs compel protests against war. They insist on living out their spirituality through prayer vigils and peace walks, sometimes on the Supreme Court’s steps.

Interestingly, the court never questioned the sincerity of their beliefs, no matter how odd they seem.

Nevertheless, the court determined that RFRA did not protect their religious acts of protest.


Because the rule restricts “only one of a multitude of means by which Plaintiffs could engage in their religiously motivated activity.”

According to their own words, the steps of the Supreme Court are not the only place in which to exercise their beliefs; it’s just one of the places they exercise their beliefs. So, while the rules might burden their religious exercise, it’s not a substantial burden since there are many avenues left open to their religious exercise.

RFRA provides broad protection to those who seek to exercise their religion, even when they attempt to do so in public. This case reminds us that RFRA correctly balances that right against the legitimate needs of government to govern.

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