Monday, March 08, 2021

Religious Freedom & The Equality Act

Yesterday I wrote of how the Republicans are focusing on the religious freedom for their opposition to the Equality Act, NPR’s WGBH said…
The Equality Act is not likely to pass in the Senate due to the lack of support from Republican senator, Monroe said.

"The GOP will argue for this Fairness For All Act under the guise of religious freedom to discriminate against LGBT people," she said. "When you compromise on all civil rights, then what other rights can we compromise on? It's just a slippery slope that invites us to regress rather than move forward."
So why now is all this talk about “Religious Freedom?”
It's time to fix an important religious freedom law
The Hill
By Rob Boston, Opinion Contributor
March 6, 2021

Nov. 16, 1993, was an unusually warm and sunny late fall day in Washington, D.C. I remember it well because I was standing on the grounds of the White House watching President Bill Clinton sign into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

It was a euphoric moment for those of us who advocate for religious freedom. RFRA had been drafted in response to a 1990 decision by the Supreme Court that many felt took an unnecessarily rigid, confining view of the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections — a view that would be particularly harmful to religious minorities.

In response, an unprecedented coalition formed to pass RFRA to protect the free exercise of religion. It consisted of groups on the right and left and every place in between. Some were religious organizations, others secular. They disagreed on a lot, but they came together to pass this legislation.
The law came about because of a cactus, peyote. Which is used in religious ceremonies by the First People for over 3 millenniums. A tribal religious leader used peyote during a ceremony and was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and was convicted. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court where the court ruled that he was guilty of possession.

Out of that conviction came the Religious Freedom Restoration Act but since then the interpretation of the law has been expanded by conservative courts to included allowing discrimination to hide behind the law.
Had the bill been intended as a vehicle for using religion to take away rights or subjecting people to harm in the name of religious belief, the coalition backing it would have quickly collapsed.

Our goals were simple, yet noble: We wanted to protect Native Americans whose traditional practices were all too often pushed aside by the government. We wanted to ensure people in federal prisons and immigration detention centers could attend worship services or keep religious texts. We wanted to enable Sikhs and Muslims serving in the military or working as emergency responders to be able to wear beards or articles of their faith.

For several years, RFRA did what it was supposed to. But now, 28 years later, we’ve gone far off course, and RFRA has been interpreted in ways that many of its original backers would never have supported.
It is now time for the law to be changed back to it intended purpose.
This perversion of RFRA cannot continue — countless people are being harmed. The law was never meant to confer second-class status on anyone or allow religion to be used as a license to discriminate. And it’s particularly dangerous because it is now being interpreted as a “super-law” that outweighs other laws intended to respect and protect people’s rights. It’s time to get RFRA back to its original intent. A bill pending in Congress, the Do No Harm Act, would do just that.

The Do No Harm Act will preserve protections for religious freedom while making it clear that RFRA can’t be used to trump laws that protect us, like those prohibiting discrimination, requiring equal treatment and safeguarding health care. The Do No Harm Act would also ensure that government officials and employees, and government-funded social-service providers, can’t use RFRA to refuse to provide services to anyone. This is just simple common sense. After all, everyone deserves to be treated equally by our government.
It will not be an easy task… the Republicans have embraced the law and twisted to their cornerstone of their persecution of the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s time to recapture the spirit of hope that birthed RFRA by getting the law back to its original purpose. RFRA must once again become a shield that protects religious freedom, not a sword that lashes out and causes harm.

There is an easy way to do that: Pass the Do No Harm Act.
One of the prongs pf the legal attack on trans athletes is “religious freedom” of the Christian students being “forced” to compete against trans athletes. They will fight the Do No Harm Act tooth and nail, they will fight it in Congress and in the Trump Courts.

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