July 2, 2015

ACLU Invokes RFRA in Lawsuit Challenging New State Law



INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, has only been on the books since Wednesday but a state civil liberties group is already invoking the law in a complaint filed in Elkhart Superior Court in Elkhart County.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of two unidentified plaintiffs— one residing in Elkhart County and the other in Allen County. The suit involves another new state law that makes it a Level 6 felony for a serious sex offender to enter a school property, even if the school also serves as a place of worship.

The ACLU suit contends that barring the plaintiffs from a place of worship even when school is not in session is in direct violation of RFRA. The law, which drew national criticism, says the government cannot place a substantial burden on a person’s free exercise of religion unless that burden is furthering a “compelling” government interest.

The law barring sex offenders from places of worship does just that, said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk in a statement.

“An absolute ban on attending religious worship substantially burdens plaintiffs’ exercise of religion under the recently enacted RFRA and violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Falk said. “The law, which is broadly drawn, is not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest here.”

An ACLU release announcing the lawsuit said the two plaintiffs, both men and registered sex offenders, “wish to attend church services without fear of being arrested, because church attendance and group prayer are essential to their ability to worship in a meaningful way.”

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