Politics

After 300 Days and 164 Cosponsors, Bill to Protect Religious Liberty Stuck in Congress

congressional buildingfrom – The Daily Signal – by Philip Wegmann

After almost a year, a bill designed to safeguard religious liberty has gained significant support but little momentum in the House of Representatives.

With 164 cosponsors, the First Amendment Defense Act is a popular piece of legislation in Congress. Still, that popularity hasn’t provided the elevation needed for the bill to advance out of committee, let alone into law.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, along with 22 other Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has co-sponsored the bill. Altogether, only three of the co-sponsors on the committee chose to comment on the story when contacted by The Daily Signal. The other 20 declined to go on the record.

Asked about the delay, a Chaffetz aide told The Daily Signal that the Utah lawmaker needed more time to review the legislation. The seven-page bill was referred to committee last June, more than 300 days ago.

Across the country, similar legislation has been proposed at the state level, sparking significant controversy. On April 5, Mississippi signed a religious liberty bill into law, while similar legislation was vetoed by Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Pointing out that “states [are] making religious freedom a priority,” Rep. Raúl Labrador, the Idaho Republican who sponsored the bill, is ready for a vote. “The First Amendment Defense Act deserves a vote on the House floor,” he wrote in a statement to The Daily Signal.

“The time has come for Congress to act at the federal level,” Labrador said. “My bill ensures there is respect for all views of marriage in our free society.”

The act would prohibit federal discrimination against individuals or organizations based on their support for marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The bill would bar the Internal Revenue Service, for example, from stripping a nonprofit of its tax-exempt status over the organization’s views on same-sex marriages.

Dan Holler, whose group Heritage Action has come out in favor of the bill, described the legislation as “an important first step.”

“The fight to protect religious liberty can’t be left solely to the states,” Holler, vice president of communications and government relations at Heritage Action, said. “Congress must ensure the federal government does not use its vast, sweeping powers to discriminate against those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage.”

Opponents argue that the legislation creates opportunities for state-sanctioned discrimination.

Soon after the bill was introduced, Sarah Warbelow of Human Rights Campaigndescribed it as part of “an extreme agenda designed to harm LGBT families under the guise of religious freedom.”

Supporters reply that laws protecting conscience rights aren’t out of the ordinary.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, deputy counsel of First Liberty, points to 160 conscience exemptions already on the books that protect the rights of citizens who object to abortion, capital punishment, and military services.

“These exemptions aren’t exceptional,” Kacsmaryk told The Daily Signal.

Kacsmaryk, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Texas, describes Labrador’s bill as creating a safeguard to protect anyone “who holds religious or conscientious beliefs about marriage and ensure their First Amendment rights aren’t violated.”

Since the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage last year, conservatives have been pushing for conscience laws at both the state and national levels.

Though Kacsmaryk supports Labrador’s bill, he said it would take time for both sides of the debate “to settle on a sort of armistice.” He notes that it took four years for the states and federal government to develop conscience laws after the legalization of abortion.

“It just takes time in a country with one federal government and 50 state governments to effect that balance,” he said.

Rep. Mark Walker argues that the whip count shouldn’t matter. The North Carolina Republican, who sits on the Oversight Committee and co-sponsored the bill, considers a vote as being about “holding members accountable.”

There’s value in advancing the bill out of committee, Walker told The Daily Signal, so “the American people can see where we have good legislation and why [Democrats] don’t want to move it through.”

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R. Frank Bruck
5 years ago

A SEVEN page bill. Pelossi and same people passed a 2,700 page OBAMA CARE BILL and it was NEVER read before she pushed it through. Now we are screwed with it. What a weak group of people we have elected. Anyone wonder why the majority of people want outsiders and business people in Congress. Wonder why Bernie Sanders has become so popular? Challenge your Representatives to stand up for Religious Freedom. We are bullied by special interest groups who prey upon the weakness of Congress and the will of the weak laid back majority of people.

Gilbert Pritchett
5 years ago

It’s because of things like this I am no longer a Republican. I was a Republican since 1961.

Stan Joy
5 years ago

This bill should have been moved out of committee a long time ago! Our Republicans are NOT showing much of an example of what THEY SAID THEY would do (back when the Dems had control) if they were in control!! Surprise, surprise–right?? Folks this is just the reason everybody is so upset with our government! Another thing, I am a Christian and it’s about time that we Christians start standing up for OUR RIGHTS !! God Bless

Allen
5 years ago

With the Obama Administration being the implacable enemy of the Constitution and the First Amendment, passing the bill would simply mean another veto. Delaying until February might mean that the law will be enacted instead of being canceled. Of course, if America is so far gone that Hillary gets elected, then we won’t just lose our First Amedment rights. All of our rights and freedoms will be gone.

Kip Olmstead
5 years ago

Why do the Democrats continue to run Congress after we have given the Republicans a majority? Republican leaders pleaded for years, and yet we are unable to advance our agenda—we couldn’t even bring an up or down vote on the Iran deal??!! Why? Nancy Pelosi and that Nevada crook in the Senate at least knew how to be a majority party!!

donna smits
5 years ago

If others get their religious liberties and choices, then so should we.

Craig S. Parrish
5 years ago

Horse Pucky…..Ryan should have put the bill
thru the House long ago!!!! No better than his predecessor!!!!!! The have their own Country
Club but Taxpayers are footing the bills!!!!

Gary Ross
5 years ago

This should not even be an issue. The Constitution states “The rights of the people shall not be infringed”.

Mary Pat Van Heusen
5 years ago

I am against this bill. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Anything else weakens the family even further than it is already. I also don’t believe this is a religious freedom issue.

Jay
5 years ago

For what it’s worth… my family is strong and I don’t feel threatened by the structure of other people’s marriages. Nor do I care. Doesn’t concern me in the least. Families are made strong by the loving support of family members, both immediate and extended family. We’re not all the same. Thank God. Let’s accept our differences. This isn’t going away. Marriage for me is one man and one woman. But I won’t be arrogant enough to dictate what happens between two consenting adults. As long as I’m not one of them, that is. Family is family. My family doesn’t get weakened by yours, and vice versa. Private lives are private. Snooping into another family’s sex life under the guise of “legality” went out in the 1960’s.

Stan Joy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Well Jay, when you say you don’t care and it doesn’t concern you, so are you also saying you don’t care anything about this transgender thing or same sex marriage??? I certainly agree with you, that what happens between two consenting adults is nobodies business. But, some of your remarks perhaps need to be explained a little more. Our country was set up by our founding fathers using Christian/Judeo moral standards or principles. We also, as I am sure you know are or were set up as a country with laws. As a Christian I find myself very concerned that we as a nation are pulling away from what our founders intended, and by the way, which is why our country became the greatest country in the history of the world!! Thanks for your comments. God Bless

RDelaney
5 years ago

When will “we the people” wake up? It’s time to throw the current bums out of power and elect people who actually represent what their constituents want. Political correctness has ruined the country. My personal view is that if my American flag offends you, please feel free to leave the country. My religious beliefs deserve the same protection that others feel they need.

Johnny Ross
5 years ago

I’m so concerned for my young grandchildren that they will not have a choice to believe or not to believe in God, that they will have to go underground to worship our Father God. Thus is administration has already but a burden financial on them the country will never be out of the debt the “government” has imposed on us all; and now, we see the Demratics again holding the ball in the air just out of reach,for their political needs. Go figure.

PaulE
5 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Ross

If America makes the wrong decision this November, the grandchildren of today will grow up in nation, like all other socialist societies which we will become if the right choice is made, where ultimately any form of religion is not only frowned upon by the government, but actively discouraged through either fines, discriminatory and retaliatory actions and even potentially imprisonment for “re-education” purposes. So make the right choice.

James Prashuk
5 years ago

“What’s right isn’t always popular, What’s popular isn’t always right” is what our “elected representatives” should remember and be reminded of. Why is is so common for the minority to dictate to the majority in this country. Religious freedom is one of the reasons for this country to have been founded. When God is left out, He tends to turn His back on His children. How many times must history repeat itself?

Bob Brown
5 years ago

Protect our God given rights.. Quit being politically correct and act with honesty and sincerity. We have been free of religous persecution for 200 years, don’t allow it to creep back into our society.

PPora
5 years ago

Sad that we must now create new law’s, in order to protect our fundamental rights to life, liberty , and the pursuit of happiness. Rights granted by the founding fathers of the nation, who believed them to be obvious to all . Because all persons involved at that time were Believers in God . I think they ‘d be ashamed of us and our gov. Leadership for how we treat others of our nation.

Ivan Berry
5 years ago
Reply to  PPora

PPora, rights are not granted by founders, but protected by the founders through the Constitution. Natural rights can only be taken by force and government is force by whatever name applied.

PaulE
5 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

I find it amazing Ivan how many people still hold the false belief that the Founding Fathers granted us rights under the Constitution. A sad commentary on how our educational system has failed America in so many ways. Intentionally of course.

Dixie
5 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, so in a way, those rights WERE granted to us by them. It would not exist except for our FF.

PaulE
5 years ago
Reply to  Dixie

They were simply stating what those God-given rights are and that government has no business interfering with those God-given rights. That is not the same as the government conveying or establishing those so-called rights in the first place. By your logic if someone wrote that they saw an apple fall from a tree, does that mean the author caused the apple to fall from a tree? No, of course not. The author was merely stating an event he saw. He did not originate the event himself.

PaulE
5 years ago
Reply to  PPora

Point of clarification PPora: We DO NOT need any new laws to protect the enumerated God-given (not granted by the Founding Fathers) rights spelled out in the United States Constitution. All that is needed is a Supreme Court willing to consistently rule on the in-Constitutional nature of many of the discriminatory rules and regulations put forth to actually promote discriminatory behavior granting so-called “protected status” to every special interest group that feels entitled to force their views on the majority of Americans in the name of “social justice”. That is why we need to ensure that ALL future nominees to the Supreme Court are like the late Judge Scalia, true Constitutional Conservatives. We don’t need more Supreme Court justices like Ginsberg, Sotomayor or Kennedy, etc.), who hold the progressive view that the Constitution as a “living document” open to being re-interpreted in whatever way suits the mood of the day.

Mark Plenn
5 years ago
Reply to  PPora

They were

Mary Anne Fiedler
5 years ago

I can’t believe how this country, at the Federal and State level is discriminating against Christians. We need very strong language in both Federal and State law
that will protect Christians who feel that they don’t want to participate in events, etc. that go against their principles. If people of the same sex want to get married
we as Christians should not have to participate in any way. There should be not penalty for standing up for ones Christian values. Let’s get this bill voted into law.

Dixie
5 years ago

Christians have to defend their religious rights because same sex couples deliberately target businesses run by Christians so they can kick up a fuss when they are denied services, knowing full well they will be denied when they approach the establishment for same sex services (such as the baking of same sex cakes, etc.). I have seen with my own eyes how spiteful many gay people can be, being “in your face” with their sexuality and anti-religion (or at least anti-organized religion) stance if they know a person is a Christian. I have suffered such slings and arrows myself from a couple of co-workers in the past, having to listen to crass, inflammatory comments about my faith (even stating such outragious attacks as “Jesus could even have been gay!” when I didn’t even bring up the subject of religion), or joking, knowing Christian co-workers will be offended. And I’m sure I am not alone in such experiences.

DCFrazer
5 years ago

HR 2802 was referred to both the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the House Ways and Means Committees, chaired by Chairmen Chaffetz, R-UT, and Brady, R-TX, respectively. The chairmen are both sponsors of the bill, and yet can’t seem to move the legislation out of their committees. Hmmmm…

Mary Ann Skutta
5 years ago

Please protect our religious liberty in the United States of America by finally passing this bill. It is so important for the moral integrity of our country that our first amendment rights are protected. We need not to be persecuted and discriminated against because of the God-given rights we truly believe in. There ought to be room in our country for differing beliefs about life and marriage. After all marriage from the beginning of our nation was understood to be a union between one man and one woman. Why isn’t there room for acceptance and respect of those who still hold these traditional beliefs? Suddenly because of a small but very vocal minority, businesses that stand by these traditional beliefs are being set apart and discriminated against? It doesn’t seem to be right and just. Where has our nation’s moral compact gone?

Mark Plenn
5 years ago

The Demonocrates contort thing so as to divide this great NATION. Obama as a street organizer is adept at tearing people apart, turning one group against another group/”Render unto Rome that which belongs to Rome and unto G-D that which is HIS”. Obama and his cronies are Rome, they want their taxes ( MORE AND MORE ) but now they go beyond that, they want our SOULS.

Rik
5 years ago

Sorry, Stan, this is my 4th attempt to answer you. I too, am anti-establishment and I originally backed Dr. Carson. Now I like Cruz because he too, is anti-establishment and greatly disliked by them because he is a strict Constitutional Conservative. I feel he is best qualified to defeat Hillary, is a good debater with no bad baggage. I hope this comment gets through.

Stan Joy
5 years ago
Reply to  Rik

Hi Rik, as you can see they are letting this go through. You and I seem to on the same page–almost. what I mean by that is I am backing Trump, not crazy about his constant bragging and what-not. Now I don’t have a problem with Cruz, and if he wins the primary, he will be the one I vote for. I just think he still might be tied a little bit to the old gang. There is no question that Trump is a very intelligent man also, and he has done just about everything for accomplishments in this lifetime and I think being President of the USA and bringing it back to where it was would be the ultimate achievement in his life. The fact that he is not beholden to anybody is another very important fact that would allow him to hire the proper people to bring us back. He also has said that he feels that he needs someone who is very knowledgeable in politics and I like that perhaps Cruz and he could get together. Anyway Rik, I’m glad that we got together. I also hope that AMAC will straighten this out very soon, as they will loose a lot of people. The only other remark is that there doesn’t seem to be another outlet to go to, or do you know another???? Thanks again. God Bless

Rose
5 years ago

Yep, we voted in conservatives and again betrayed and just the same old, same old. This is why I am no longer a conservative, but an Independent and for America. 300 days to decide that our Founding Fathers decided in fewer days – that America was founded on Judeo/Christian foundations. That those who came to this land was to be able to practice their faith beliefs. Wake up, America, and let’s start cleaning out the traitors and restore our America and our Constitution and Bill of Rights! Why should we have to debate this any where in America. A God-given right, and an America that also came about with this God given right. We, the People are the Government and the clowns we hired are not to tell us what to do or not but just represent what they gave their oaths and promises to do and that is not to determine anything about my Christian beliefs. Stick to the real business of stopping spending, reducing the debt and deficit, and limiting government and stop giving it all away to the empty suit and your almighty donor dollars telling you what to do!

Jacquelin Duffy
5 years ago

For a long time now, clergymen have been reluctant to speak of politics from their pulpits. This is because, if they speak against the “party line” or, perish forbid, a member of the government, they stand to lose their tax exempt status, which includes property tax exemption. Years ago, I spoke to the pastor of my church, an older man — who was from a different generation, when the clergy didn’t need to fear reprisals — and who was quite outspoken when he came across blatant lies and misrepresentations, from the powerful. I asked him why he was willing to speak out against government over-reach and yet his Brothers in Christ were conspicuously quiet. He cited his age but also stated that it probably was just a matter of time, before one of his more liberal parishioners would report him to the IRS. He was never reported — ours was fortunately, a Conservative church. The tax free status thing is quite stringently adhered to by the government — that is for some, but not all. It seems that many of the black churches are quite political, as we have all seen.

Bill
5 years ago

You are so right. Black churches invite politicians they like to speak at their churches and campaign for voters, even during services. Where is the government and separatists then?

Patrick
5 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Black churches don’t care. If the government tries to take away their tax-exempt status the black churches will just scream “racism” or “persecution” and the pandering Obama Administration will run away with their tail between their legs.

JohnH1
5 years ago

Surely it would be acceptable for the clergy to say a prayer for the president and for the congress, that they would make the correct and proper decisions. And maybe even that we would elect good people.

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