DO NO HARM: House Dems Again Seek To “Correct” RFRA Law With Amendment Banning Discrimination

Via press release:

With the support of leaders from the civil rights, social justice and faith communities, Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, today reintroduced legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The Do No Harm Act would clarify that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights. It comes in response to continued efforts across the country to cite religious belief as grounds to undermine Civil Rights Act protections, limit access to healthcare, and refuse service to minority populations.

Specifically, the Do No Harm Act 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.

“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,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “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 ACLU reacts:

“Religious freedom does not give anyone the right to discriminate. Numerous cases have shown that RFRA as written can lead to unacceptable civil rights violations,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU.

“President Trump’s religious liberty executive order signed on May 4 lays the groundwork for RFRA to be further misused as a license to discriminate. It’s now more important than ever to pass the Do No Harm Act to prevent discrimination under the guise of religious liberty.”

In August 2016, a federal district court ruled that RFRA exempts a religiously affiliated funeral home from sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after it fired a transgender employee.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that under RFRA, employers could refuse contraceptive coverage to their female employees based on the employers’ religious beliefs.