US: HRC – Congress Must Advance ‘Do No Harm Act’

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HRC [The Human Rights Campaign] urges Congress to advance legislation clarifying that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is intended to protect religious freedom, while ensuring it cannot be misused as a weapon of discrimination.

The Do No Harm Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday, by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Steve Cohen (D-TN).

Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and protecting people of faith from discrimination is entirely compatible with protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. The Do No Harm Act will preserve the core protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) while clarifying it cannot be used to violate essential non-discrimination protections, including for the LGBTQ community. Congress must advance the Do No Harm Act to prevent anti-equality activists from manipulating RFRA to try and justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and religious minorities.

Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign

RFRA was never meant to be a tool for discrimination. The Do No Harm Act would amend RFRA and restore the original intent of the legislation, by specifically exempting areas of law where RFRA has been used as a disingenuous bypass of federal statute and regulation. These include well-settled areas of law designed to protect the most vulnerable populations, including child labour and abuse, equal employment and non-discrimination, health care, federal contracts and grants, and government services.

When passed into law over two decades ago, RFRA was supported by a broad coalition, including many in the civil rights community. Designed to protect minority religious groups’ constitutional right to free exercise, RFRA was welcomed as an important shield from the tyranny of majority rule.

Despite this focused, straightforward intent, individuals and even businesses have distorted RFRA’s protections into a blank check to discriminate, or to impose their religious beliefs on others. These claims have not only undermined the original power of RFRA to protect minority groups, but have also threatened the basic underpinnings of religious liberty, and America’s commitment to a pluralistic society.

The Do No Harm Act will guarantee the intended, sensible balance of religious liberties, government protections and individual rights.

-Viet Tran, HRC

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