U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today re-introduced an important piece of legislation called the Do No Harm Act (DNHA) in the Senate. The Senate bill was previously sponsored by Vice President Kamala Harris when she served in the Senate. It’s about time that this bill becomes law.
Here’s why we need the Do No Harm Act:
In 1993, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA for short. The legislation was a response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision that changed the test that applied to free exercise cases making it harder for religious minorities to win the religious freedom cases in court.
A diverse coalition, including AU, supported RFRA because it was intended to restore those protections – namely, by requiring that the government prove it has a compelling reason for policies that place substantial burdens on someone’s religious practices.
Unfortunately, in the years since, RFRA has been misused in ways many of its original backers would never have supported. For example, RFRA has been cited as the rationale to deny employees and university students insurance coverage for birth control, allow government contractors and other taxpayer-funded organizations to discriminate in employment for jobs in government-funded programs and let taxpayer-funded foster care agencies turn away potential parents because they are the “wrong” religion or LGBTQ, denying children in foster care the opportunity to find loving homes.
It’s vital that we restore RFRA back to its original purpose and make it clear that religious freedom is a shield to protect us all, not a sword to harm others.
That’s where the Do Harm Act comes in. It will amend RFRA to ensure that no one misuses it to undermine nondiscrimination laws, deny access to health care, thwart workplace protections, refuse to provide government-funded services or evade child labor laws.
Sen. Booker joined U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), who currently sponsor this bill in the House, to push for the passage of this important legislation. Be sure to contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to cosponsor this important legislation.
You can learn more about the Do No Harm Act here.