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Opinion: Democrats’ ‘Do No Harm Act’ makes attacking religious liberty an election issue

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June 8, 2018

By Ken Klukowski, Senior Counsel and Director of Strategic Affairs at First Liberty. Originally published on The Hill on June 8, 2018.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects people of faith. Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing the Do Not Harm Act that would strip away the rights of millions of Americans who, because of their faith, are pro-life or support traditional marriage, making this an election issue for 2018.

More than 100 House Democrats have signed onto H.R. 3222, the misleadingly named “Do No Harm Act”. A dozen senators — including likely presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) —have introduced this measure which would strip away RFRA faith-based rights pertaining to abortion, LGBT issues, and marriage.

The First Amendment to the Constitution provides multiple protections for religious freedom. The Free Speech Clause protects the right to express beliefs and opinions, including religious ones. The Free Exercise Clause protects living your life according to the teachings of your faith.

For two centuries, government burdens on exercising faith were subject to “strict scrutiny,” meaning they were presumed by courts to be unconstitutional and were sustained only if absolutely necessary and carefully tailored to achieve a truly compelling public interest. But in 1990, the Supreme Court in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith wrongly narrowed the scope of the Free Exercise Clause to protect only against government actions that directly or indirectly target religion, lowering the bar for government interference with religious liberty.

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