The Do A Lot of Harm Act

Sev­eral Demo­cratic sen­a­tors want to hob­ble rights of the re­li­gious

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The Do No Harm Act, pro­posed by sev­eral Democrats in the U.S. Se­nate rang­ing from the far left to the far­ther left, is a sneaky case of mis­la­bel­ing. If there were truth in mar­ket­ing, it would be called the Do A Lot of Harm Act. The new leg­is­la­tion would evis­cer­ate the 25-year-old Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, which was once fa­vored by lib­eral mem­bers of Con­gress for its pro­tec­tions of mi­nor­ity re­li­gious prac­tices, such as, among other things, the rights of Mus­lims and Sikhs to wear re­li­gious head­gear on the job and in driver’s li­cense pho­to­graphs.

Iron­i­cally, that leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced on that far-away day by one Rep. Chuck Schumer of New York and by Sen. Ted Kennedy of Mas­sachusetts, and it was passed by the House by unan­i­mous vote and only three sen­a­tors voted against it. Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton ea­gerly signed it. But that was then, and this is now.

The good news is that the new leg­is­la­tion has no ex­pec­ta­tion of en­act­ment, and was a bone thrown to the ex­pand­ing Demo­cratic left, and to bur­nish the cre­den­tials of its au­thors with the rad­i­cal wing of the party. Still, it shows what some Democrats would do if they could. The Do No Harm Act would amend the Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act to pre­vent the law from be­ing in­voked as a le­gal de­fense against what the Democrats call dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay, les­bian and trans­gen­der peo­ple.

The law would fur­ther tar­get pri­vate busi­ness con­cerns like the Hobby Lobby and char­i­ties like the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, which in­sist that the govern­ment can­not com­pel them to pro­vide abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age to their em­ploy­ees in con­tra­ven­tion of their re­li­gious be­liefs.

The Do No Harm par­ti­sans want Con­gress to put its thumb on the scale to fa­vor LGBT and abor­tion plain­tiffs when their le­gal rights col­lide with those of the re­li­giously de­vout. One of the bill’s cospon­sors, Sen. Mazie Hirono, Demo­crat of Hawaii, puts the goal in plain English: “While our coun­try was founded on the value of re­li­gious lib­erty,” she says, “that free­dom can­not come at the ex­pense of oth­ers’ civil rights.” Bro­mides al­ways come with a “but.”

The leg­is­la­tion would not re­peal the First Amend­ment pro­tec­tion of the free ex­er­cise of re­li­gion, be­cause a law can’t over­ride a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. But the Do No Harm Act would give lib­eral fed­eral judges cover for rul­ing against the re­li­gious when­ever pos­si­ble, such as in the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker whose First Amend­ment free-speech rights were nar­rowly up­held by the U.S. Supreme Court.

An­other co-spon­sor, Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia, in­sists that the Do No Harm Act would sim­ply bal­ance com­pet­ing rights and “en­sure we pro­tect both.” But when two rights col­lide, only one right will pre­vail, as the sen­a­tor knows. She wants to tip the scale to make sure that her fa­vorite pre­vails. Eter­nal vig­i­lance is the price of lib­erty, and some­times the vig­i­lantes ride from the halls of Con­gress.

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