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Democrats Re-Introduce The “Do No Harm Act” to Amend “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed by Congress in 1993 after a controversial Supreme Court decision in 1990 about two American Indians who worked as private drug rehab counselors and ingested peyote as part of religious ceremonies conducted by the Native American Church, and they were subsequently fired.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the firing.

Because of this case a near unanimous Congress passed RFRA in 1993 and President Bill Clinton signed the law saying that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification” and “the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.”

Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) in the House and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the Senate have introduced the “Do No Harm Act.” If passed, RFRA could still be used to protect religious freedoms, but it couldn’t be used as a weapon against others:

The Do No Harm Act would clarify that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights. Originally introduced in response to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores decision that made it possible for corporations to deny health care to female employees, the legislation would also overturn the Trump Administration’s recent waiver allowing child welfare agencies in South Carolina to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and different religions.

“We cannot be equal or free if our government grants select Americans a license to discriminate against their neighbors under the guise of religious freedom,” said Congressman Kennedy. “By passing the Do No Harm Act, we can reestablish the sacred balance between religious liberty and the personal liberties of those who have too often had their civil rights bargained away. I’m proud to stand with Congressman Scott, Senator Harris, and civil rights activists from around the country as we continue on our march towards a more perfect union.”

In addition to protecting civil rights on an individual basis, the Do No Harm Act would also overturn the Trump Administration’s recent waiver allowing faith-based foster agencies in South Carolina to deny services to same-sex and non-Christian couples.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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