Religious Liberty vs. Civil Rights: Is There a Victor?Kiersten Lynch | May 24, 2018
An article featured on The Mercury News explains the U.S. Democrats’ efforts to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in order to provide more protection and anti-discrimination efforts for gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The act they propose, called the Do Not Harm Act, will change the RFRA act so that religious freedom rights will not be protected if they threaten the civil rights of another person.
This act suggests that the RFRA grants religious freedom inevitably and in all cases. However, the article cites Charles Haynes, a scholar on religious freedom at the Newseum, who explains that the RFRA act does not grant this kind of freedom to those claiming an injustice of religious freedom, rather, the act is meant to encourage the government to consider religious consciousness seriously in these cases.
In light of Haynes’ clarification, the Do Not Harm Act is actually unnecessary. The RFRA is already meant to balance the considerations between religious liberty and civil liberty, not give preference to the side of religious liberty in every case. As a result, these Democratic efforts reveal the true intentions of this bill: to sway these issues to the left and give greater freedom to those that they claim suffer an injustice to civil rights: namely those in the LGBTQ community.
While the rights of all people should always be taken into account, and discrimination is certainly toxic to our societies, this issue demonstrates the priorities of the Democratic Party as midterm elections loom in the Fall. Without a full understanding of these efforts, one might easily find themselves voting for a cause that they do not actually intend to support. It’s important to stay informed about these issues as they make their way through bills and courts, and be vigilant toward attacks on religious liberties and freedoms that the United States was truly founded upon—and which should not be deemed outdated.