The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was originally passed in 1993 with the intent to protect the free exercise of religion and religious minorities. However, federal, state, and local governments across the country have 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 Affordable Care Act’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 (HR 1378) – reintroduced on February 25 by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jamie Raskin (D-VA), and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) – 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 protect freedom of and from religion today.