Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom

Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom March 21, 2015

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman

The city of Washington, DC has passed two laws that directly attack religious freedom.

The first is the ironically titled Human Rights Amendment of 2014. According to Catholic News Agency,

… the Human Rights Amendment of 2014, forces religious schools to recognize persons and groups who might conflict with their stated mission and allow them use of their facilities and benefits. For example, a Catholic school would be forced to officially recognize an openly-gay student group and could not deny them use of its facilities.

The second is the equally mis-titled Reproductive Health Non-Discrmination Act of 2014. Again, according to Catholic News Agency,

… the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014, prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees over their “reproductive health decision making.” Thus, a Catholic or pro-life group could not make employment decisions based on their employees’ decision to act contrary to the mission – such as procuring an abortion, for example.

Both of these two laws are direct attacks on both religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms. That is why I say that their titles are ironic. They do not guarantee human rights and freedom from discrimination. These laws themselves are attacks on the basic human right of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination of religious believers.

To read a fact sheet on the two laws, go here.

There are two resolutions in the United States Senate which would overturn these laws. Congress has 30 days to review the bills, which are slated to become law on April 17. As noted in the Catholic News Agency article,

The Archdiocese of Washington supports these two resolutions, which, they say, “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government” and “result in discrimination against religious believers.”

The Knights of Columbus, the United States bishops’ conference, the Catholic University of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have joined the Archdiocese of Washington in the call to pass the resolutions.

I do not know if Georgetown University has joined the opposition to these laws. If they have not, I would like to know why.

Congress clearly has the power to overturn these laws. The question, as always with Congress, is will they use their power for the purpose it was given to them, or will they set this up as another partisan fight in order to align voters for the ’16 elections?

Congress needs to hear from their constituents as to why they are not doing any of the things that got them elected in the first place.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued the followed press release concerning the resolutions in Congress on March 18:

Religious Freedom at Stake

U.S. Senate Must Stand for Religious Freedom in Nation’s Capital

March 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today the Archdiocese of Washington, along with a large and growing coalition of religious institutions, faith-based organizations, and pro-life advocacy organizations within the District of Columbia, welcomes the introduction of two resolutions disapproving the unprecedented attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital through the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA).

HRAA, by removing conscience protections in the law, would prevent religious educational institutions from operating according to the tenets of their own faith with regard to human sexuality, and RHNDA would force religious institutions and other organizations to hire or retain employees who publicly act in defiance of the mission of their employer. Both laws subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and result in discrimination against religious believers.

The Archdiocese of Washington has long respected home rule for the District of Columbia and, therefore, advocated for our religious rights with the D.C. Council throughout the legislative process. Despite this, the Council passed these acts. The archdiocese’s appeal to Congress to restore these constitutional rights is the only legislative recourse that remains. The Council of the District of Columbia transmitted the new measures to Congress on March 6, initiating a thirty-day congressional review period.

The archdiocese is grateful for the resolutions introduced today in the U.S. Senate and is hopeful for swift action in both chambers of Congress within the remaining days of the congressional review period.





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3 responses to “Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom”

  1. It us obvious why Georgetown would not join in, they care only for Academic Freedom, and believe religious freedom to be secondary. From their point of view, these two bills increase the human right to be wrong.

  2. On the Human Rights Amendment Act, my initial impression is that of government overreach. Forget about the religious aspect; what this would do is effectively remove any say the administrators have in vetting any student group. What’s to stop students from forming a “He-Man women haters club”, dedicated to dissuading women from pursuing and completing college degrees? Its clearly against the university’s mission and vision.

    I agree mostly with the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, since I tend to fall more on the “your life, your business” side. Imagine for a second you’re a Catholic that ends up working at an adult novelty shop (whatever, you need to pay the bills). Would it be fair if you got fired because you used NFP instead of the birth control methods promoted by the store? I’d say its none of their business.

    I think the tricky part of these kinds of laws are defining the allowable exceptions. I’m fine with a religious institution; less so with a secondary institution affiliated to a religion.

    I’m less inclined to provide an exception for schools. As a student or a teacher you are there primarily to receive or teach a secular education, not to enforce religious doctrine. I’m even less inclined to extend a religious exception to other employers like hospitals, bookshops, restaurants, etc.

    Now, a seminary school, where the students there are studying specifically to be religious leaders and representatives, is another matter altogether. The same goes to advocacy groups that promote certain lifestyle, especially if they are acting as a spokesperson or another high-profile position.

    Overall, what I’m looking for is avoid having employers arbitrarily claim a religious affiliation or mission statement when their activities are unrelated to those, for the express purpose of circumventing the law.

    On another note, it would be interesting to see if in a similar spirit of “employers, mind you own business”, somebody came up with a “Non-Discrimination for Unrelated Social Media Activities” act.