Over a year after it was introduced, the First Amendment Defense Act, designed to protect Americans from being discriminated against by the federal government based on their religious beliefs, will soon get a hearing in the House of Representatives. The Daily Signal reports that the hearing is set for July 12 in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
The proposed legislation, H.R. 2802, prohibits;
“The federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that:
(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or
(2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
H.R. 2802 lists specific discriminatory acts the federal government may not take, including:
Altering the federal tax treatment of, cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, or deny, delay or revoke certain tax exemptions of any such person.
Disallowing a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person.
Withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating, or otherwise denying any federal grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment or similar position or status from or to such person.
Withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating or otherwise denying any benefit under a federal benefit program.
The bill currently has 171 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republican, save Rep. Daniel Lipsinski, D-Ill.
Dan Holler, with the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action for America, is encouraged that the committee is finally moving forward with a hearing and hopes the legislation will now be expedited. “Given the bill’s broad support, both on the committee and within the Republican conference as a whole, there is no reason for delay,” he said.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign, said of the bill when it was introduced, “Once again, House Republicans are pursuing an extreme agenda that is designed to harm LGBT families under the guise of religious freedom. The right to believe is fundamental. The right to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate is not.”
Clearly, the organization would not be willing to accept the federal government denying a businesses or individuals contracts or tax benefits because they believed in or advocated for LGBT issues; however, it is supportive of allowing the federal government to do just that to people of faith.
A related issue came up in the House of Representatives in May when Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., offered legislation seeking to codify an executive order by President Obama barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers, with no exception for those with sincerely held religious beliefs.
The amendment passed with 40 Republicans joining the Democrats in a 223-195 win for Obama; however, the overall bill it was attached to was soundly defeated, so the amendment did not become law.
H.R. 2802 may be able to garner broader support because it zeroes in on specific discriminatory acts by the federal government against religious Americans. Liberal objections to religious liberty measures passed in certain states in recent years have centered on concerns that business owners, based on their religious beliefs, would be allowed to discriminate against LGBT customers.