Feb 25, 2021

Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauds U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) for re-introducing the Do No Harm Act today in Congress. This critical bill will preserve the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s power to protect religious freedom, while also clarifying that it may not be used to harm others.

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, issued the following statement:

“The Do No Harm Act will protect and restore our country’s founding principle of religious freedom – that everyone should be free to practice their religion or no religion at all, as long as they do not harm others. 

“Despite the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect free exercise and religious minorities, some are misusing what they call ‘religious freedom’ to ignore nondiscrimination laws and deny people access to health care, jobs and government-funded services. This exploitation of religious freedom especially harms LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious by undermining their civil rights and equality. 

“We thank Reps. Scott, Cohen, Raskin and Scanlon for sponsoring the Do No Harm Act, and we urge Congress to quickly pass this critical bill to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield that protects all of us, not a sword used to harm some of us.”

Background:

In 1993, Americans United joined a diverse group – religious and nonreligious, liberal and conservative – to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was intended to protect the free exercise of religion, particularly for people of minority faiths. But today, the law is being misused to create exemptions from laws that protect people’s basic civil rights.            

The Do No Harm Act will preserve RFRA’s power to protect religious freedom, while also clarifying that it may not be used to harm others. The Do No Harm Act will amend RFRA to ensure that is not misused to: 

  • Undermine nondiscrimination laws 
  • Evade child labor laws 
  • Deny access to health care 
  • Thwart workplace protections (such as fair wage and equal pay laws) 
  • Refuse to provide government-funded services
  • Refuse to perform duties as a government employee

More than 95 civil rights, LGBTQ, health, labor and faith groups have endorsed the Do No Harm Act. That includes more than 30 organizations representing diverse faith traditions, 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.

Click here for statements from faith leaders in support of the Do No Harm Act.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.