Thirty years ago, a broad coalition of religious and secular groups joined an effort to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), legislation designed to protect minority religious expression in America.
Now, many of those same voices are coming back together to make it clear that RFRA was never intended to justify discrimination against anyone. That’s why they’ve endorsed the Do No Harm Act, a bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives last week that will return RFRA to its original purpose of protecting the free exercise of religion, especially for religious minorities, while making it clear that the legislation should never be used to exempt anyone from laws that protect other people’s basic civil rights.
Here are what some faith leaders are saying in support of the Do No Harm Act:
Jim Winkler, president and general secretary, National Council of Churches: “The rights of religious minorities should and must be protected, but those rights cannot be used in such a way that they allow for others to be discriminated against. The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that RFRA operates as it was intended.”
Rabbi Robert B. Barr, Congregation Beth Adam, Loveland, Ohio: “The fabric of our nation is frayed when people are discriminated against in the name of religion. As a religious leader, it pains me to see religion used to infringe upon others’ fundamental rights. Regrettably, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law meant to protect religious freedom, has been misused by those who seek to use religion as a tool to impose their values on others. In our nation this cannot be accepted or tolerated. The Do No Harm Act will correct the misuse of RFRA and restore its original intent.”
The Rev. Cedric Harmon, executive director of Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay & Transgender Justice: “As a proclaimer of the Gospel, which is good news, I raise my voice in support of the Do No Harm Act. The protections enumerated in the act align with the core values of love for our neighbors while carefully avoiding infringement upon religious freedom. Assuring that religion is not used as the basis for discrimination, or denial of access to government services, the Do No Harm Act is consistent with the highest ideals of religious teaching. Finally, the act provides necessary protection for religious minorities, women and LGBTQ people who are far too often subjected to harsh and harmful barriers.”
You can read more comments from faith leaders supporting the Do No Harm Act here. Additionally, more than 30 organizations representing diverse faith traditions have endorsed the Do No Harm Act, such as the United Methodist Church General Board of Church & Society; T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministry; Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A); American Baptist Home Mission Society; Circle Sanctuary; Disciples of Christ Center for Public Witness; Global Justice Institute; Metropolitan Community Churches; Muslim Advocates; and the National Council of Churches. And many religious groups including the Interfaith Alliance, Bend the Arc, Circle Sanctuary, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League and others, joined a social media blitz Americans United organized on Monday to increase awareness about the Do No Harm Act.
Plenty of secular groups have also endorsed the Do No Harm Act. Religious and secular voices have joined together because they know that this legislation will protect religious freedom and individual rights.
You can help. Urge your representative to cosponsor this important bill!