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.
About 20 so-called “religious leaders” sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, on the heels of the Supreme Courts horrendous Hobby Lobby ruling petitioning for a “robust religious exemption” to President Obama’s announced executive order that would make it illegal for all federal contractors to discriminate in the workplace against LGBT people
“An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.,” it said. “When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.” […]
“Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.”
Longtime LGBT activist, and former Executive Director of both the NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project and the NGLTF (when they actually did something) released the followinf statement on how disastrous it would be for the LGBT community should the Hobby Lobby case influence a religious exemption to President Obama’s executive order:
“Hobby Lobby dramatically escalates the harm that will be caused if President Obama succumbs to growing pressure from religious and anti-gay forces and (with implicit or explicit approval from HRC) puts an ENDA-like religious exemption in the promised Executive Order (EO) to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. While largely under the radar, this is, in fact, a crisis situation.
“Such an exemption would have been bad enough before Hobby Lobby, but the decision makes it even more deadly. The Hobby Lobby majority said the decision shouldn’t be read to undermine employment nondiscrimination laws. BUT if the EO contains the ENDA exemption, there’s nothing to stop the reasoning in Hobby Lobby from having full force and effect in justifying anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors – pushing the door even more widely open for discrimination against our people for essentially any reason whatsoever.
“The only acceptable religious exemption is the one long-contained in Title VII. Anything else can spell disaster for years to come, including profoundly weakening the impact of future federal nondiscrimination laws and our hopes to secure meaningful civil rights protections in the 29 states that still lack them. There is no moral or political justification for President Obama to cave and endorse LGBT people having less protections from discrimination than other Americans. This issue is not a side show; it is core to our equality.”
Thank you Matt Foreman for speaking out while others *cough*HRC and Chad Hunter Griffin *cough* remain silent.
Now the question is what will President Obama do? Will he be the fierce leader that everyone makes him out to be or will he prove to have no backbone and fold?.
So much is riding on his decision lets hope that he does whats right.
Tony KKK Perkins – President of the Anti-gay right wing extremist hate group the Family Research Council:
“The Supreme Court has delivered one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation. We are thankful the Supreme Court agreed that the government went too far by mandating that family businesses owners must violate their consciences under threat of crippling fines. All Americans can be thankful that the Court reaffirmed that freedom of conscience is a long-held American tradition and that the government cannot impose a law on American men and women that forces them to violate their beliefs in order to hold a job, own a business, or purchase health insurance.”
Failed Boxer, failed Insurance Agent and current hate group leader of the Liberty Counsel Mat “Bam Bam” Barber:
“The implications of this victory for freedom cannot be overemphasized as the decision holds essentially that First Amendment religious liberties are applicable to corporations. It protects those with pro-life views from being forced by the government to be complicit in (pay for or provide) abortion homicide procedures, whether chemical or surgical. There will be much analysis to follow and it remains unclear, but this bodes somewhat well for religious liberty in the context of how Christian business owners who sincerely hold to the biblical view of sexual morality may (or may not) ‘associate’ with others who are engaged in the counter-biblical ‘LGBT’ lifestyle or other forms of sexual immorality.”
Today’s majority ruling disregards decades of case law that drew a protective line between free religious expression and religious dominance of others. It is a radically dangerous decision that invites more misguided actions contrary to essential protections for employees, customers and the public. It is imperative that the U.S. Congress amend the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to withdraw the blessing the Court mistakenly has given these companies to impose their beliefs on working women. Today’s ruling is about the ACA and women’s reproductive health and rights, but some may mistake this narrow ruling as a wide open door for religious liberty exemptions from other statutes that protect employees and the public. Today’s opinion says doing so would be incorrect. However, recent mistreatment of LGBT people in employment and other commercial settings still makes this extremely troubling. A business owner’s religious objection to a worker’s same-sex spouse or a customer’s LGBT identity is not acceptable grounds for discrimination. It is more important than ever that states and Congress enact strong, clear nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
The Center for Lesbian Rights:
The majority’s holding that closely held corporations can claim religious liberty protections designed for individuals—and can rely on those protections to avoid complying with generally applicable laws—is a dangerous and radical departure from existing law that creates far more questions than it answers and shows a callous disregard for the health care needs of women workers. Thankfully, however, the majority recognized that even under its sweeping new rule, corporations cannot rely on claims of religious liberty to evade non-discrimination laws. That limitation is extremely important and means that employers cannot exploit today’s decision to justify non-compliance with laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and other vulnerable groups, but we will need to be vigilant to make sure that principle is respected and enforced.
NARAL Pro-Choice America:
Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination. Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end. Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions. Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in our lives, and none of those stories made it into the arguments. It’s outrageous that these five male justices chose to single out birth control for special discrimination. NARAL’s message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees’ personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds, and so is this ruling. We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable.