Congress to consider ‘veto’ of DC bills coercing organizations against their missions

ADF, other DC groups called on Congress to respect freedom of conscience
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Steven H. Aden

WASHINGTON – Two joint resolutions of Congress introduced Wednesday would, if approved, effectively “veto” two recently passed District of Columbia laws that force religious and pro-life organizations to operate contrary to their missions and sincerely held beliefs.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the resolutions in the wake of letters that Alliance Defending Freedom and other religious and pro-life organizations that operate in the District sent to Congress last month. The letters explained that the bills, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 and the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, are unconstitutional and that Congress should use its authority to disapprove them.

“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.”

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 prohibits even pro-life and religious organizations from “discriminating” against employees and potential employees for any “reproductive health” decision, including elective abortions. Under the guise of nondiscrimination, the law would also force employers to provide health insurance for elective abortions regardless of the organization’s religious beliefs or pro-life mission.

The Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 requires faith-based educational institutions to endorse and to provide school resources to individuals and groups who oppose the schools’ religious teachings on sex.

The letters sent to Congress last month noted that both laws violate constitutionally protected freedoms and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. As a federal district, D.C. laws are subject to review by Congress before they go into effect. Once the D.C. Council sent them to House and Senate leaders, a clock of 30 legislative days began counting down for Congress to “disapprove” the bills before they become law. If Congress adopts the resolutions, they will go to President Obama for his signature.

“Americans must be free to exercise their constitutionally protected liberties without fear of punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “That is a principle that D.C. officials and members of Congress should all be willing to respect.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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