Sending Office: Honorable Joseph P. Kennedy III
116th Congress (107): Bass, Beatty, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici,
Boyle, Brownley, Cartwright, Case, Castor, Cicilline, Clark, Cohen, Cooper, Correa, Costa, Craig, Crist, Susan Davis, DeFazio, DeGette, DeLauro, DelBene, Demings, DeSaulnier, Dingell, Engel, Eshoo, Espaillat, Foster, Frankel, Fudge, Gabbard, Garamendi, Grijalva,
Haaland, Hastings, Himes, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Hank Johnson, Robin Kelly, Khanna, Kildee, Kilmer, Kind, Krishnamoorthi, Kuster, Lamb, Lawrence, Lawson, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Lujan, Lynch, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Matsui, McCollum, McEachin,
McGovern, Meeks, Meng, Moulton, Nadler, Napolitano, Norton, Pallone, Panetta, Pappas, Payne, Peters, Pingree, Pocan, Porter, Quigley, Raskin, Rice, Roybal-Allard, Ruppersberger, Rush, Sanchez, Scanlon, Schakowsky, Schiff, Schneider, Serrano, Shalala, Slotkin,
Adam Smith, Soto, Speier, Suozzi, Swalwell, Bennie Thompson, Trahan, Trone, Velazquez, Visclosky, Wasserman Schultz, Watson Coleman, Welch, Wexton, Wild, Yarmuth
115th Congress Cosponsors (173): Adams, Aguilar, Barragan,
Bass, Beatty, Bera, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bordallo, Boyle, Robert Brady, Anthony Brown, Julia Brownley, Bustos, Capuano, Carbajal, Cardenas, Carson, Cartwright, Castor, Castro, Chu, Cicilline, Clark, Clarke, Clay, Cohen, Connolly, Conyers, Cooper, Correa,
Costa, Courtney, Crist, Crowley, Cummings, Susan Davis, DeFazio, DeGette, Delaney, DeLauro, DelBene, Demings, DeSaulnier, Deutch, Dingell, Doggett, Doyle, Ellison, Engel, Eshoo, Espaillat, Esty, Evans, Foster, Frankel, Fudge, Gabbard, Gallego, Garamendi, Gomez,
Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hanabusa, Hastings, Heck, Higgins, Himes, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Jayapal, Jeffries, Hank Johnson, Kaptur, Keating, Robin Kelly, Khanna, Kihuen, Kildee, Kilmer, Kind, Krishnamoorthi, Kuster, Lamb, Langevin, Larsen,
Larson, Lawrence, Lawson, Lee, Levin, Lieu, Loebsack, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Lowey, Lujan, Lujan Grisham, Lynch, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Matsui, Meng, McCollum, McEachin, McGovern, McNerney, Meeks, Morelle, Moulton, Murphy, Nadler, Napolitano,
Neal, Norcross, Nolan, Norton, O’Halleran, O’Rourke, Pallone, Panetta, Pascrell, Payne, Perlmutter, Peters, Pingree, Pocan, Polis, Price, Quigley, Raskin, Kathleen Rice, Rosen, Roybal-Allard, Ruiz, Ruppersberger, Rush, Tim Ryan, Sanchez, Schakowsky, Schiff,
Schneider, Schrader, David Scott, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Sherman, Sires, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Soto, Speier, Suozzi, Swalwell, Takano, Bennie Thompson, Mike Thompson, Titus, Tonko, Torres, Tsongas, Velazquez, Vargas, Vela, Wasserman Schultz, Waters, Watson
Coleman, Welch, Yarmuth
When Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the intent was not to undermine civil rights, but to protect them,
especially for religious minorities. Religion is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, and the freedom to exercise religious beliefs is constitutionally protected as a fundamental American value.
After the Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling in
Employment Division v. Smith called the free exercise rights of religious minorities into question, Congress passed RFRA to affirm that laws intended for the general good can have unintentional impacts on free exercise, and persons of faith need recourse
and remedy when they do.
There is a difference, however, between exercising religious beliefs and imposing them upon others. Our Constitution fiercely protects the former and expressly prohibits the
latter, but RFRA, sadly, has been used as a tool to do both. Witnesses have cited RFRA to avoid testifying in child labor and abuse cases and employers have raised religious objections to recognizing worker protections under the National Labor Relations Act.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores made it possible for corporations to rely on RFRA in denying health care to their female employees. Most recently, the Trump Administration granted a request from South Carolina to use RFRA
to waive non-discrimination requirements for state-contracted child welfare agencies. This RFRA waiver permits South Carolina to use federal funds to contract with child placement agencies that impose religious litmus tests on families seeking to foster or
adopt children in the public child welfare system. These agencies will now be allowed to turn away families because they are “the wrong religion” or because of religious objections to their sexual orientation or gender identity, notwithstanding a federal
regulation that prohibits exactly this kind of discrimination in federally-funded programs.
With these issues in mind, we invite you to join us as co-sponsors of the Do No Harm Act. This legislation would restore RFRA’s purpose as a protective shield for religious
minorities and free exercise. The bill makes clear that RFRA does not preempt laws that protect against discrimination, govern wages and collective bargaining, prohibit child labor and abuse, provide access to health care, govern public accommodations, or
require that goods and services be provided via government contract. These areas of the law protect important civil and legal rights of every American, and they are places where a religious exemption for one results in harm to another.
Religious freedom is an anchoring value of American democracy, but so, too, is equal protection under the law. Both can be honored and upheld by a RFRA that is faithful to its
original intent and to American values. The Do No Harm Act would safeguard the civil rights, religious freedom, and dignity of every American by affirming that one person’s rights count no more or less than another’s. Please contact
Qais Roshan (Kennedy) or
Carolyn Ronis (Scott) if you would like to co-sponsor or have additional questions.
Joseph P. Kennedy, III Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Member of Congress Member of Congress
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0