The Do No Harm Act states that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) shouldn’t be used to create religious exemptions to laws that are designed to prohibit discrimination, require equal pay and protect children’s welfare. It also states government officials and employees can’t use RFRA to refuse to provide services to the public.
Bill #: H.R. 3222
Bill Name: Do No Harm Act
Legislature: Federal House of Representatives
Sponsors: Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) (7.13.2017)
Where It Is Now: The House Committee on the Judiciary (7.13.2017
Stake Holders: LGBT community and other minorities, religionists, employers, employees, general citizenry
Why We Care:
First introduced in the House of Representatives by Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) in 2016 and re-introduced July 13, 2017 by the same two Representatives, the Do No Harm Act amends the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to ensure it may not be used to harm others. The RFRA was enacted in 1993 to protect religious freedom, especially for religious minorities. It followed a case in which Native Americans in Oregon were fired from their jobs after testing positive for drugs because they had used peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, in a religious ritual and Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United) once noted, the law was meant to ensure that “Jewish children could wear yarmulkes in public schools or Muslim firefighters could wear beards.”
However, since then, individuals, religiously affiliated federal contractors and even for-profit businesses have attempted to exploit the RFRA to by-pass non-discrimination, health and safety laws. The most notorious example is Hobby Lobby, a national craft store chain with tens of thousands of employees, that used RFRA to refuse to provide its workers insurance coverage for contraception. As
The Do No Harm Act will ensure that RFRA will remain a vital way to protect religious exercise, such as for Sikh soldiers barred by Army regulations from serving their country while wearing their articles of faith. However, it will prevent the RFRA which was originally established as a shield to protect religious liberties from becoming a sword to take away liberties from others
Some Christian groups oppose it; however, others such as Catholics for Choice support it. It is also supported by: the AFL-CIO, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and a host of other secular and religious groups
Local Impact: In 2016, Governor Baker signed into law a statute prohibiting transgender discrimination in places of public accommodations such as restaurants, movie theaters, retail shops and public transportation. Passage of the Do No Harm Act would ensure similar protections for Massachusetts residents while visiting other states.
Meets Our Stated Objective: Promotes equality and inclusiveness as well as separation of church and state
- Contact Representative Keating to support
- Contact members of House Judiciary Committee urging their support