Do No Harm Act | New NY 23rd

As a Baptist minister and longtime participant in the interfaith movement, I know firsthand the importance of faith in many people’s personal lives, as well as the role religion can play in the civic life of communities across the country. Unfortunately, in the past several years, we have seen how the constitutional right to religious freedom has been distorted and weaponized to the detriment of religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, people seeking reproductive medical care, and more.— The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, President and CEO of Interfaith Alliance

Rev. Raushenbush spoke in Elmira on May 2, 2023. The Interfaith Alliance, urges swift action on the “Do No Harm Act;” they write:  

People of faith and conscience know that religion should be a bridge, not a bludgeon. Our nation is built on the principle that each of us has the freedom to believe as we choose, with respect for others to do the same. Religious freedom should go hand in hand with civil rights: the “Do No Harm Act” codifies this patriotic sentiment into law, protecting the integrity of religion and democracy.

The Do No Harm Act would clarify the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to ensure that no one can cite religious belief to undermine the Civil Rights Act, limit access to health care, or refuse services to those who live or love differently than they do.

H.R.1378 – “Do No Harm Act” was introduced in the 117th Congress by Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA). It had 206 cosponsors, all Democrats. It died in committee. Here is the CRS Summary:

This bill prohibits the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to specified federal laws or the implementation of such laws. Currently, RFRA prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest when using the least restrictive means.

Under the bill, RFRA is inapplicable to laws or the implementation of laws that

  • protect against discrimination or the promotion of equal opportunity (e.g., the Civil Rights Act of 1964);
  • require employers to provide wages, other compensation, or benefits, including leave;
  • protect collective activity in the workplace;
  • protect against child labor, abuse, or exploitation; or
  • provide for access to, information about, referrals for, provision of, or coverage for, any health care item or service.

The bill prevents RFRA from being used to deny (1) goods or services the government has contracted, granted, or made an agreement to provide to a beneficiary of or participant in a program or activity funded by such government contract, grant, agreement, or other award; or (2) a person’s full and equal enjoyment of a government-provided good, service, benefit, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation.

In order for a person to assert a RFRA claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, the government must be a party to the proceeding.

H.R.2725 – “Do No Harm Act” was introduced in the 118th Congress again by Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA). It has 93 cosponsors, all Democrats. There is no CRS Summary yet.

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