In the sea of laws inspired by the ‘Project blitz” (the latest attempt by Christians to use their power in government to make legislations according to their needs) Democrats introduced a bill that would amend the 25-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill would try to answer the question how to choose when both LGBT people and conservative Christians feel their civil rights are at risk. The Do No Harm Act was introduced Tuesday in the U.S. Senate by Senators Kamala Harris, Patrick Leahy, and Mazie Hirono and is a companion bill to the House version introduced by Reps. Scott and Kennedy.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a 1993 United States federal law that "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” It was usually referenced in cases involving practitioners of minority religions, such as Sikhs and Muslims seeking the right to wear their religious headgear in their driver’s license photos. But in recent years, it has become a favorite law among conservative Christians, who say that it protects their rights to abstain from practices they disavow.
According to the Human Rights Campaign website the Do No Harm Act clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is intended to protect religious freedom without allowing the infliction of harm on other people. It would amend RFRA in order to restore the original intent of the legislation by specifically exempting areas of law where RFRA has been used to bypass federal protections. These include well-settled areas of law designed to protect our most vulnerable populations including child labor and abuse, equal employment and non-discrimination, health care, federal contracts and grants, and government services. The Do No Harm Act therefore ensures that religious freedom is used as a shield to protect the Constitutional right to free exercise of religion and not a sword to discriminate.
Harris, one of the sponsors of the Senate bill, said the senators’ amendment could balance both: “The freedom to worship is a founding principle of this nation as well as the right to live free of discrimination or fear that one’s civil rights will be undermined because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” she said in a statement. “The Do No Harm Act will ensure we protect both these rights for all.”
If the bill passes in the Republican-controlled Congress, hospitals and health care providers would be prevented from refusing to provide women and LGBTQ individuals with life-saving medical care because they claim that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. In a case currently before the Supreme Court, a baker in Colorado is claiming that religion justifies discriminating against a gay couple by refusing to bake a cake for them upon learning it would be used at their wedding.
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