Bill Attacking RFRA Gaining Steam

A bill introduced last month that would undermine the broad, longstanding, and bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) gained two more co-sponsors in the House of Representatives this weekThe so-called Do No Harm Act (H.R. 5272), introduced by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), would insert text into RFRA that would hollow it by precluding it from even being considered in a broad array of legal cases.

RFRA, signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton with pomp in the White House Rose Garden, simply provides a courtroom balancing test that calls for deference to America’s founding principle of religious liberty unless there is a “compelling government interest” achieved by the “least restrictive means.” However, the law has come under fire from the Left in recent years, particularly after the abortion lobby was outraged by the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling. Indeed, when introducing his legislation, Rep. Kennedy declared that RFRA has become a “vehicle for those seeking to impose their beliefs on others or claim that the tenants of their faith justify discrimination.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Human Rights Campaign, and Planned Parenthood are among those groups that have lined up in support of this legislation.  In addition to Reps. Kennedy and Scott, Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) are also co-sponsors of the bill.

Earlier this year, the NRB Board of Directors, a body of approximately one hundred key leaders among Christian communicators, unanimously approved a resolution warning, “Powerful liberal lobbies seem to be growing generally more intolerant of religious liberty and particularly more willing to use legislation to undermine RFRA and related state laws.”The Board urged that RFRA be upheld and respected by the government.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 24, 2016


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