HRC Urges Congress to Advance the “Do No Harm Act”

by HRC Staff

Legislation would clarify that the federal RFRA is intended to protect religious freedom while ensuring it is not misused as a weapon of discrimination.

Post submitted by Stephen Peters, former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson

Today, the Human Rights Campaign urged Congress to advance the Do No Harm Act — legislation clarifying that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is intended to protect religious freedom while ensuring it cannot be misused as a weapon of discrimination. The bill was reintroduced in Congress today by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA).

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed to reinforce the right of religious minorities to practice their religion. But some anti-equality activists have distorted and manipulated the legislation to try and justify discrimination against others,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The Do No Harm Act will preserve the core protections of RFRA while clarifying it cannot be used to violate essential non-discrimination protections, including for the LGBTQ community.”

RFRA was never meant to be a tool for discrimination. The Do No Harm Act would amend RFRA and restore the original intent of the legislation by specifically exempting areas of law where RFRA has been used as a disingenuous bypass of federal statute and regulation. These include well-settled areas of law designed to protect the most vulnerable populations, including child labor and abuse, equal employment and non-discrimination, health care, federal contracts and grants, and government services.

When passed into law over two decades ago, RFRA was supported by a broad coalition including many in the civil rights community. Designed to protect minority religious groups' Constitutional right to free exercise, RFRA was welcomed as an important shield from the tyranny of majority rule.

Despite this focused, straightforward intent, individuals and even businesses have distorted RFRA's protections into a blank check to discriminate or to impose their religious beliefs on others. These claims have not only undermined the original power of RFRA to protect minority groups, but have also threatened the basic underpinnings of religious liberty and America's commitment to a pluralistic society.

The Do No Harm Act will guarantee the intended, sensible balance of religious liberties, government protections, and individual rights.