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Presidential and Attorney General Directive
October 6, 2017

Summary

Last year on May 18, 2016, Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced an amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. That statute provides that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” The proposed amendment was referred to a congressional committee but no action was taken on it. On July 13, 2017, Representative Kennedy reintroduced the same amendment to the statute again in Congress. The amendment introduced by Representative Kennedy is popularly known as the “Do No Harm Act” and would clarify the RFRA to provide that no person can use the religious exemption of the law to deny another person fundamental civil and legal rights. On October 6, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive to all federal government agencies that said, “religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.” LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis

In recent years, opponents of women’s reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and LGBT issues have tried to resist complying with government laws designed to protect people who would otherwise be vulnerable to discrimination because of these issues. In 2014, the Supreme Court decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which allowed a company to opt out of mandated contraceptive insurance because of religious beliefs. And in a highly anticipated Supreme Court case, the court will examine the case of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because it went against his religious beliefs.

These cases illustrate an alarming trend – how more and more people are relying on religious beliefs and the RFRA in order to not comply with laws they do not personally agree with. It is becoming, in effect, a license to resist and discriminate against abortion laws, same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. How long before this rationale is extended to discriminate against minorities and even other viewpoints? This is why Representative Kennedy’s “Do No Harm” bill should be approved. In an inspiring speech promoting it Representative Kennedy said:

“Inherent in our nation’s right to religious freedom is a promise that my belief cannot be used to infringe on yours or do you harm. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was intended to protect against such distortions of faith, not to justify them. Unfortunately, in recent years, that legislation has been used as cover to erode civil rights protections, equal access to health care and child labor laws. In the face of mounting threats from an Administration that continues to back away from civil rights protections, the Do No Harm Act will restore the sacred balance between our right to religious freedom and our promise of equal protection under law.”

The “Do No Harm Act” is the right mindset and the right approach to oppose this alarming trend. This amendment is not a restriction on religious freedom. It still protects the Freedom of Religion and a person’s ability to worship as they see fit. What it does is ensure that those religious beliefs do not deprive other persons their right to full participation in American society. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@usresistnews.org.


 

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