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Fri Mar 1, 2019, 04:07 AM

Bill Takes Aim at Discrimination in the Name of Faith

Three congressional Democrats have reintroduced a bill to amend the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to assure that it could not be used to justify discrimination.

U.S. Reps. Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Bobby Scott of Virginia, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, today reintroduced the legislation, first put forth in 2017.

The act “would clarify that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights,” according to a press release from Kennedy’s office. It was originally introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores decision, which held that under RFRA, for-profit companies could deny employees insurance coverage for certain types of contraception, based on the employer’s religious objections. The legislation would assure access to such coverage and also address anti-LGBTQ discrimination -- for example, overturning the Trump administration’s recent waiver allowing faith-based child welfare agencies in South Carolina to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and members of different religions, even if the agencies receive taxpayer funds.

“Specifically, the Do No Harm Act would limit the use of RFRA in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, access to health care, public accommodations, and social services provided through government contract,” the release notes.

“We cannot be equal or free if our government grants select Americans a license to discriminate against their neighbors under the guise of religious freedom,” Kennedy said in the release. “By passing the Do No Harm Act, we can reestablish the sacred balance between religious liberty and the personal liberties of those who have too often had their civil rights bargained away. I’m proud to stand with Congressman Scott, Senator Harris, and civil rights activists from around the country as we continue on our march towards a more perfect union.”

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