Sep 15, 2021

Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauds U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for re-introducing the Do No Harm Act today in the U.S. Senate. 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 uphold our country’s founding principle of religious freedom – that everyone has the freedom to believe as they want, but our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was intended to protect free exercise and religious minorities, yet some are misusing this law to circumvent nondiscrimination protections 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. The Do No Harm Act would preserve RFRA’s power to protect religious exercise while ensuring it cannot be used to cause harm.

“We thank Senator Cory Booker 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 others.”

U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) re-introduced the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1378) in the House in February. The bill has 138 co-sponsors in the House.

Background:

In 1993, Americans United joined a diverse group – religious and nonreligious, liberal and conservative – to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 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

One hundred 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 Center for Public Witness; Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches; KARAMAH; and the National Council of Churches.

Resources:

  • More information on the Do No Harm Act is available here.
  • A full list of organizations endorsing the DNHA is available here.
  • 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.