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Catholics Agree: Real Religious Liberty Means Do No Harm

May 18, 2016

Washington, DC — Catholics for Choice joined some 40 organizations voicing their support for the Do No Harm Act, announced today by Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA). The Do No Harm Act would amend the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to protect the religious, civil and conscience-based rights of individuals.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to refer Zubik back to the lower courts underscores the importance of the Do No Harm Act,” said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director of Catholics for Choice. “RFRA has been exploited by Catholic bishops and their allies to protect their financial interests and deny employees access to essential medical services, like birth control.

“The Do No Harm Act would rectify a dangerous misuse of RFRA by multi-million dollar institutions that intend to force their owners’ beliefs on their employees. Everyday Catholics know this is a misinterpretation of what our faith tells us about religious freedom and conscience. As Catholics, we believe religious freedom is a two-sided coin—it means freedom of religion and from religion for the individual citizen. What’s often missing from today’s debates is the religious liberty rights of all workers in the United States—their right to live their lives according to their own beliefs and consciences, and their freedom from having their employers’ beliefs forced upon them.”

The Do No Harm Act would restore the original intent of RFRA by ensuring that it cannot be misused to discriminate and harm others. Specifically, the legislation identifies circumstances where RFRA cannot be used to trump the rights of others. These circumstances include nondiscrimination laws, workplace laws regarding wages and compensation, laws protecting children’s welfare, laws ensuring access to healthcare, provision of goods and services under government grants and contracts and provision of government services.