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January 16, 2003

Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Bill Becomes Law

Last year Home School Legal Defense Association and Pennsylvania homeschoolers worked hard to get a bill passed that would have removed 90% of the current regulations on homeschooling. After a tremendous showing at the hearing by the House Education Committee, passage looked likely. Unfortunately in November, a last minute amendment by the chairman of the House Education Committee killed the bill.

Thankfully a different bill, S.B. 1421, passed on November 18, 2002, in the final weeks of the legislative session. S.B. 1421 restores the protection of an individual's right to free exercise of religious belief that was taken away by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1997 City of Boerne decision.

If a parent in Pennsylvania is homeschooling for religious reasons and comes in conflict with the state, the parent may invoke the new religious freedom act as a defense. In order to override the parent's religious beliefs, Pennsylvania is required to prove with evidence that its particular regulation is the "least restrictive means" possible for children to be educated.

This evens the playing field for homeschoolers and other families who are burdened by excessive regulations. We are thankful that this bill passed. HSLDA has worked in many states to introduce and pass religious freedoms acts. Presently, with the passage of Pennsylvania's laws, there are twelve states that have religious freedoms acts including: Texas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Illinois, Idaho, Florida, Connecticut, Arizona and Alabama.

 Other Resources

Chris Klicka Letter on Pennsylvania RFA