Washington, D.C. – Laws aimed at protecting the freedom of religion are increasingly being used to justify discrimination against vulnerable communities, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
Religious minorities, women, people of color, nonreligious people and the LGBTQ community all have been targets of the growing abuse of harmful religious exemptions, especially since the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was broadened by the Supreme Court in the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision.
This new report lays out the most recent evidence of how the Trump administration and other have continued a strategy of promoting overly broad and discriminatory religious exemptions to advance a narrow political agenda. This includes:
- Undermining the contraception coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act
- Justifying policies that prevent LGBTQ people from adopting and fostering children from faith-based providers
- Threatening the separation of church and state at both the federal and state levels
The misuse of religious liberty has privileged a certain set of religious beliefs and political goals over the rights of many, the report says. This has not only laid the groundwork to redefine the extent of the law and the scope of religious exemptions, but also threatened the very definition of America’s foundational principles of religious liberty and the separation of church and state.
“The principle of the freedom of religion should extend to all people, not only ones who come from a specific set of religious beliefs,” said Emily London, lead author of the report and a research assistant for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at CAP. “Policies protecting the freedom of religion should reflect the moral values of equality, inclusion, and freedom for all to live without fear of discrimination.”
The report outlines options for policymakers at all levels to create structures for a more balanced vision of religious liberty in America. These include:
- Clarifying that RFRA is not intended to be a tool to discriminate
- Ensuring that religious exemptions do not undermine patient health or civil rights
- Prohibiting for-profit business corporations from claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws
- Extending nondiscrimination laws at the federal level, such as through the passage of the recently reintroduced Equality Act
- Consulting faith communities in local policymaking and foster interfaith dialogue
Read the report: “Religious Liberty Should Do No Harm” by Emily London and Maggie Siddiqi.
- Religious Liberty for a Select Few, by Sharita Gruberg, Frank J. Bewkes, Elizabeth Platt, Katherine Frank, and Claire Markham
- Reclaiming Religious Freedom, by Emily London and Maggie Siddiqi
- Restoring the Balance: A Progressive Vision of Religious Liberty Preserves the Rights and Freedoms of All Americans, by Carolyn Davis, Laura E. Durso, and Carmel Martin with Donna Barry, Billy Corriher, Sharita Gruberg, Jeff Krehely, Sarah McBride, Ian Millhiser, Anisha Singh, and Sally Steenland
- A Blueprint for Reclaiming Religious Liberty Post-Hobby Lobby, by Donna Barry, Sandhya Bathija, Laura E. Durso, Joshua Field, Carmel Martin, and Sally Steenland
For more information, or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs, or 202-478-6327.