The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce that Rep. Bobby Scott and 102 co-sponsors have reintroduced in Congress today the Do No Harm Act.
The bill would make certain that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is used only as a shield to protect religious freedom, rather than as a sword to harm religious minorities, women, LGBTQ citizens and nontheists. Until RFRA, religious freedom was never considered a license to violate the rights of another citizen.
RFRA will still protect religious exercise, such as ensuring Sikh individuals in the military may wear beards, when the Do No Harm Act passes. But it prevents RFRA from being abused to violate basic civil rights. Increasingly RFRA, first enacted in 1993, has been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws, such as by allowing employers to deny women employees insurance coverage for birth control, to turn away foster parents because they are the “wrong” religion or are LGBTQ, or to allow federal contractors to discriminate in employment.
RFRA as currently enacted has also led to evasion of child labor laws, refusal by government employees to perform duties, and denial of government-funded services.
More than 95 organizations, including FFRF, health, labor, civil rights, LGBTQ and religious groups, have endorsed the bill, along with civil rights advocates. FFRF and its members are engaging in a “Day of Action” today, March 1, to help the bill hit the ground running.
The Do No Harm Act was first introduced in 2016 in the House by Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Scott, and in the Senate in 2018 by lead sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris. Leading sponsors for the 2021 bill include Reps. Steve Cohen, Jamie Raskin and Mary Gay Scanlon.
“Religious freedom does not include the right to force your religion onto other citizens,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Now is the time for Congress to act swiftly to protect true religious liberty by passing the Do No Harm Act.”