He said in congressional testimony lawmakers heard examples of discrimination, including a case where a city refused to allow a Mormon church to construct a temple "simply because it was not in the 'aesthetic' interests of the community."

Hatch also expressed thanks to Sens. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had "strong and serious concerns about portions of this bill" but were willing to accept it because of their "overriding commitment to religious freedom."

Reid criticized portions of the bill that applied "strict scrutiny" to restrictions placed on the religious practices of prisoners. But rather than thwart the bill's passage, Reid said Hatch had agreed to hold hearings next year on the impact of the new legislation on penal institutions and frivolous lawsuits.