The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening religious exercise unless it does so in furtherance of a compelling interest via the least restrictive means available. However, the Trump administration has blatantly manipulated the law in the name of “conscience rights” and “religious liberty.” For instance, RFRA has been employed to justify denial of prospective parents by government-funded foster care and adoption agencies, to decimate the ACA’s contraceptive coverage benefit, and to authorize refusals of care based on the religious or moral beliefs of health care entities and providers.
Religious freedom should be understood as a shield to protect free exercise, such as when a Sikh student was prohibited from wearing a turban at school or when a Jewish government worker was refused time off for Rosh Hashanah. On the other hand, so-called “conscience rights” should not be used to undermine discrimination and workplace laws, evade child welfare laws, or deny access to health care. The Do No Harm Act – reintroduced on February 28 by Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) alongside Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) – would ensure that RFRA is never again abused in this way by clarifying that the law cannot be used to harm others. Urge your lawmakers to support the Do No Harm Act to restore RFRA to its original intent and stop the Trump administration’s exploitation of religious liberty.