U.S. Reps. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) reintroduced the Do No Harm Act in July to help ensure that religion can’t be used to trump laws that protect people, including provisions prohibiting discrimination, requiring equal pay and protecting children’s welfare.
This legislation, first introduced last year, would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. RFRA would continue to provide protections for religious exercise, but the Do No Harm Act would clarify that RFRA may not be used to harm others.
Americans United expressed support for the legislation.
“The Do No Harm Act will protect religious freedom of all Americans and we need it now more than ever,” Barry Lynn, AU’s executive director, wrote in a July 13 “Wall of Separation” blog post. “Our country is strongest when we are all free to believe or not, as we see fit, and to practice our faith – without hurting others.”
Although RFRA was never intended to allow religion to be used as an excuse to harm others, some courts have interpreted it that way. On the federal level, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order in May that lays the groundwork for RFRA to be misused even further. The executive order calls on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to write guidance that may result in discrimination against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, nontheists and almost anyone else under the guise of religious freedom. (At the time this issue of Church & State went to print, the guidance had not yet been released.)
Lynn added that AU will continue fighting discrimination in the name of religion.