Senators Introduce Effort to Void D.C. Bills That Force Religious Groups to Violate Beliefs

congress pdWASHINGTON — Two U.S. Senators have introduced joint resolutions that would essentially void two D.C. bills that passed last year, which some state force faith-based organizations to violate their religious beliefs.

As previously reported, the D.C. City Council passed the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in December, which does away with an exemption afforded to faith-based schools to live out their beliefs on homosexuality. The exemption is better known as the Armstrong Amendment, which was passed by Congress in the 1980’s.

D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells had proposed to repeal the religious exemption as he believed that it made provision for persons of faith to discriminate against homosexuals.

The same month, the Council unanimously passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, which amended a 1977 law and prohibits pro-life organizations from “discriminating” against employees who obtain abortions. Text of the bill stated that its purpose was to “ensure that individuals are protected from discrimination by an employer, employment agency, or labor organization based on an individual’s or dependent’s reproductive health decisions.”

But Christian groups opposed the changes, with the organization Liberty Council writing to city council to outline its concerns, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—and a number of other organizations as co-signers—sending a letter to Congress to urge intervention.

“The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 prevents religious institutions, other faith-based employers, and pro-life advocacy organizations from making employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs or their moral and ethical views about the sanctity of human life,” the ADF letter stated.

“The Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 requires religiously affiliated educational institutions to endorse, sponsor, and provide school resources to persons or groups that oppose the institutions’ religious teachings regarding human sexuality,” it continued. “Both laws violate the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association protected by the First Amendment and other federal law.”

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Now, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) have introduced joint resolutions, also known as disapproval resolutions, that would essentially void the two Acts passed in D.C. last year.

“What the D.C. Council has done is a major threat to the fundamental right to religious freedom for D.C. residents and organizations, and a brazen display of intolerance,” Lankford told the publication Roll Call.

“The Constitution provides that all Americans enjoy the right to live a life in accordance with their convictions of faith. Limiting religious practice to a church building is a weekend hobby, not a personal faith. The First Amendment is first for a reason—it cannot be ignored by the D.C. City Council,” he said.

The resolutions would need to pass Congress and be signed by Barack Obama in order to annul the passage of the amendments.

“The government has no business forcing pro-life and faith-based organizations to betray the very values they were created to advance,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “D.C. officials had the opportunity to drop these laws, which clearly violate religious freedom and freedom of conscience, but they chose not to. Congress, therefore, should approve these resolutions to stop what can only be called hopelessly illegal bills. Concerns about the constitutionality of these types of laws have come from people across the political spectrum.”


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