Statement by the Freedom From Religion Foundation
The Freedom From Religion Foundation welcomes the introduction today of the "Do No Harm Act" to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA. FFRF applauds U.S. Reps. Bobbie Scott of Virginia and Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts for their leadership in seeking to reform a law that has protected religious privilege, at the expense of true religious freedom.
Scott and Kennedy contend that RFRA is being used as a weapon against liberty rather than as a shield to protect religious freedom. RFRA has been invoked to undermine Civil Rights Act protections, limit access to healthcare, and refuse service to minority populations.
The bill would limit the use of RFRA in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, access to health care, public accommodations and social services provided through government contract.
Scott said the law, since being adopted in 1993, "has been misconstrued as allowing the sincerely-held religious beliefs of one person to trump the civil rights of others."
"The right of Americans to freely and fully express our faith is sacred in this country," said Kennedy. "But in order to guarantee that liberty for every citizen, our system must ensure that my religious freedom does not infringe on yours or do you harm."
FFRF has been calling for the repeal of RFRA since the Supreme Court's disastrous Hobby Lobby decision in 2014. That decision permitted for-profit corporations to invoke religion to deny women workers contraceptive health coverage. Along with leading RFRA critic Marci Hamilton, FFRF filed an amicus brief seeking RFRA's repeal.
RFRA is a super-statute that effectively amends every other federal law, including laws meant to protect citizens from unfair treatment. The Do No Harm Act would limit which laws RFRA applies to. For instance, RFRA would no longer allow believers to be exempt from the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, or laws that require coverage for any health care item. The bill, if enacted, could undo some of the damage caused by the Hobby Lobby decision.
"Religious freedom is already protected in our nation. That protection is called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.