Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser made the case directly to Congress that the Do No Harm Act is urgently needed to block the Trump administration's ongoing attacks on religious freedom.
Laser testified for nearly four hours on June 25 before the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and Labor about the misapplication of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its remedy: the Do No Harm Act (DNHA), a bill that Americans United's public policy experts helped get introduced.
"The Trump administration is ignoring the intent and constitutional limitations on RFRA," Laser told members of Congress. "It's weapon-izing RFRA to undermine civil rights protections, deny people access to health care and government services, and even deny children loving homes. This harms LGBTQ people, women, the nonreligous and religious minorities the most.
"RFRA, a statute designed as a shield to protect religious freedom, is now being used as a sword to cause harm," Laser continued. "Congress should pass the Do No Harm Act, a simple yet critical bill designed to re store RFRA to its original intent. It will preserve the law's power to protect religious freedom while clarifying it may not be used to harm others."
The hearing, "Do No Harm: Examining the Misapplication of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," was held by the committee that is chaired by U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.), one of the leading co-sponsors of the Do No Harm Act, whose work made the hearing possible.
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (DMass.), who is the lead sponsor of the DNHA in the House, also testified, as did the Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, and Shirley J. Wilcher, executive director of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity.
Republican members of the committee invited two lawyers with ties to the religious extremist legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to testify in opposition to the Do No Harm Act: U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (RLa.), a former ADF attorney, and Matt Sharp, ADF's senior counsel.
Johnson and Sharp repeatedly tried to miscast the DNHA as legislation that would replace or repeal RFRA's protections. But as Laser stressed during the hearing, "RFRA isn't going away." Rather, the DNHA would restore RFRA to its original intent of protecting religious freedom, especially for religious minorities, while clarifying that it cannot be used to justify harm...