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Gutting Religious Freedom: Why Opponents of the 'Do No Harm Act' Say It Would Actually Do Serious Harm

08-07-2019
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US religious freedom - We the People

WASHINGTON – It could become harder for Americans to live out their faith if a bill before Congress becomes law. Opponents warn the "Do No Harm Act" (DNHA) certainly would not live up to its name – in fact, it would do the opposite of what its name claims.

The measure aims to strip away parts of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) which has protected groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby in the past. 

Matt Sharp is a religious freedom advocate with the Alliance Defending Freedom and is one of many sounding the alarm on DNHA.  

"This bill would gut various religious freedom protections for countless Americans, people of all walks of life, Christians, Muslims, Jews and so many others," Sharp told CBN News.  

"Throughout the 25 years of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, they have had their right to freely live out their faith protected against government efforts to tell them they must violate their conscience or do something that violates their beliefs," Sharp said.
  
In 2014, RFRA protected national retail chain Hobby Lobby in a case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act had mandated all employers fund insurance for abortion-inducing drugs. The owners of Hobby Lobby said doing this violated their religious conscience, and in a 6-2 vote, the high court sided with them, citing RFRA. 

"The purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, is to protect the rights of individuals of faith all across the country, regardless of what that faith is," Craig Parshall with the National Religious Broadcasters told CBN News. 

Parshall points to history to back up the constitutionality of RFRA. 

"If you look back to the original founding intention in the debates in Congress, behind the writing of the First Amendment, what was in the minds of the Founders as established in the Congressional Record at the time, it's real clear," he explained. "What they wanted to make sure is that government would never coerce a person to do or say or engage in something that violated their religious conscience."

Supporters of DNHA believe RFRA is too often used as a weapon to discriminate against women, minorities and the LGBTQ community. 

Both Parshall and Sharp vehemently disagree. 

"They're pushing this idea that RFRA is harmful, that it's being used to harm other individuals and that's simply false," said Sharp. 

Right now DNHA has been introduced in both the House and Senate but only the House has held a hearing on it. 

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