Human Rights Campaign Praises Re-Introduction of the “Do No Harm Act”

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

DNHA would clarify the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act consistent with the original Congressional intent to protect religious freedom and not to harm marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people.

Today, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, praised the Senate re-introduction of the Do No Harm Act (DNHA) — legislation aligning statutory language with the original intent of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — to protect religious freedom while not harming marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people. The reintroduction of DNHA seeks to reassert the original intent of the RFRA and undo regulations and policies that have used RFRA to justify broad carve-outs to nondiscrimination protections. In February, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) introduced the bill in the U.S. House, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has now re-introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate.

Religious freedom is a core American value, enshrined in our constitution. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was instituted to guard against burdens placed on religious minorities that interfere with the practice of their faith.

Anti-equality lawmakers and activists have distorted RFRA’s original intent to achieve political objectives and strip hard-won nondiscrimination and safety protections from marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people. The Do No Harm Act will remedy this misinterpretation and prevent the weaponization of the RFRA.

JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs

RFRA, enacted in 1993 in response to a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that significantly limited the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, safeguards constitutional protections for the free exercise of religion by minority religious groups. At the time, the legislation was widely championed by a broad coalition of organizations, including civil rights groups.

In recent years, however, RFRA has been misused as a smokescreen for discrimination to bypass federal statutes and regulations meant to protect vulnerable populations from harm on a broad range of issues. The Do No Harm Act would amend RFRA to restore the original intent and prevent these harms.

DNHA would bar RFRA from being used to:

  • Undermine nondiscrimination laws

  • Deny access to healthcare

  • Evade child labor laws

  • Thwart laws that protect workers’ rights

  • Refuse to provide government-funded services under a contract or grant

  • Refuse to perform duties as a government employee

The Do No Harm Act will reestablish a balance of religious liberties, government protections, and individual rights. The legislation clarifies that RFRA is intended to protect religious freedom without allowing the infliction of harm on other people. HRC supports Sen. Cory Booker’s introduction of this legislation in the Senate and stands proudly alongside 95 LGBTQ+, civil rights, health, and faith-based groups who have called for its passage.

More information about the Do No Harm Act can be accessed on HRC’s website here.

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