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Press ReleaseCivil Rights
ADL Applauds Enactment of Religious Freedom Bill

Washington, D.C., September 22, 2000 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the enactment of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), a measure designed to ensure that government not interfere with an individual’s freedom to practice his/her religion unless the highest governmental interest is at stake. President Clinton signed the measure today at a White House ceremony, surrounded by national civil rights and religious leaders, including ADL National Commissioner Milton "Tony" Schneider of Philadelphia.

Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

We welcome the enactment of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), an important response to recent Supreme Court decisions that have significantly restricted the legal protections governing the right of Americans to practice their religion freely. The League has been pleased to be part of the leadership of an unusually broad coalition of religious and civil liberties organizations in support of this measure.

This new law covers religious practice in two critical areas that have sparked a large number of complaints. First, the statute adds protection for houses of worship from undue land use restrictions. Congressional hearings on the measure revealed that in a disturbingly large number of communities, land use regulation makes it difficult or impossible to build, buy, or rent space for new synagogues and other house of worship, whether large or small.

Second, RLUIPA provides expanded protection for the religious observances of prisoners and other institutionalized persons -- without compromising appropriate institutional discipline and security concerns. Among the examples of unfair restrictions on the religious observances of prisoners presented at congressional hearings were cases in which prison officials not only refused to purchase Passover matzo, but refused to accept even donated matzo from a Jewish organization.

President Clinton has made initiatives to protect religious freedom - in schools and in the federal workplace -- one of the hallmarks of his administration. This legislation is another important step forward in protecting the fundamental right of all Americans to worship free from unnecessary government interference.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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