Christians v. Crystal Evangelical Free Church: Interpreting RFRA in the Battle Among God, the Government, and the Bankruptcy Code

Susan Franck, Washington and Lee University School of Law


In the past, religious debtors have used the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to tithe to their churches at a time when they were insolvent and questions have arisen whether these tithes are fraudulent transfers, which should be repatriated to the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of all creditors. This case comment analyzes the first circuit court opinion to evaluate the intersection of religious tithing, bankruptcy, fraudulent conveyance law and RFRA. In light of the doubts as to RFRA's constitutionality, this comment argues for a narrow interpretation of RFRA and, when determining the scope of free exercise protection, courts should use a functional balancing test to weigh the competing interests of religious liberty against the need for effective government administration in the context of personal bankruptcy.