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US archbishops support proposed legislation ‘that will help protect religious freedom’

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the First Amendment Defence Act on July 12, a bill two US archbishops said would provide “a measure of protection for religious freedom at the federal level.”

The legislation was introduced on June 17 by Representative Raul Labrador, Idaho. The same day Senator Mike Lee, Utah, introduced the measure in the Senate.

The day of the hearing Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore issued a joint statement urging support for the measure. They are, respectively, chairmen of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defence of Marriage and the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

They said the bill is “a modest but important step in ensuring conscience protection to faith-based organisations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, protecting them from discrimination by the federal government.”

Archbishops Cordileone and Lori noted an “increasing intolerance toward religious belief and belief in the conjugal meaning of marriage,” which they said makes the bill’s protections “essential for continuing faith-based charitable work, which supports the common good of our society.”

“Faith-based agencies and schools should not lose their licenses or accreditation simply because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view,” the prelates said.

The bill, known as HR 2802, defines “discriminatory action” as any federal government action to discriminate against a person with such beliefs or convictions.

Those actions include altering the federal tax treatment of, causing any tax, penalty or payment to be assessed against, or denying, delaying or revoking certain tax exemptions of any such person; withholding, reducing, excluding, terminating or otherwise denying any benefit under a federal benefit program; or disallowing a deduction of any charitable contribution “made to or by such person.”

“The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, universally held for centuries, has nothing to do with disrespect for others, nor does it depend on religious belief,” Archbishops Cordileone and Lori wrote. “Rather, it is based on truths about the human person that are understandable by reason.

Opponents of the First Amendment Defence Act have said it would enable widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and compared it to a religious freedom law in Mississippi that a judge halted.

In their statement, the archbishops said the Catholic Church “will continue to promote and protect the truth of marriage as foundational to the common good.”



  1. Tom Rafferty Reply

    Let’s get serious here. All US residents have religious freedom under the US Constitution. What these “Religious Freedom” bills really are are attempts to discriminate against individuals who do not adhere to particular religious dogma. If any Catholic organization is serving the public, it should not be allow to opt out of government laws and regulations. That also is in the US Constitution, as, not only is there freedom of religion, there is freedom from religion: “The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution PROHIBITS THE MAKING OF ANY LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, impeding the free exercise of religion, – – – “

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    The Republicans added this to their platform, giving reasonable people one more reason to vote against that dysfunctional political party. Religions can define marriage any way they want, and either perform or not perform them as they choose, but what matters in this country is civil marriage as recognized by the state, and since we don’t live in a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia or the Vatican, these Bronze Age definitions of marriage (oops – back in those days you could have multiple wives, you had to marry your dead brother’s wife, you could marry your wife’s slaves, you had to marry any virgin women that you raped, so let’s change that to Iron Age) are not relevent to our more civilized society.
    Trump talks about making America “great” again, but I have no idea what that means to him. What made America “great” in the first place is that we were the first country in western history to develop a government that was not based on one or the other religion. This is what made America so different from any others in Europe, which had been wracked in continuous religiously aligned wars for centuries. And it worked! America did not tear itself up over religion for 200 years, despite occasional attempts like this one that would lead us back to the Iron Age. Europe saw the advantage that freedom from religion gave us and quickly followed suit, to such an extent that they overcame us and became even more free of religion than we are. My European friends can’t get over how backwards and fundagelical we are compared with the rest of the western world. We showed the rest of the world the way forward, and then allowed religion to take too large a role in US society, perhaps as a bone for having refused to allow a direct relationship between state and religion in the first place. To make America “great” again, to me, means reiterating our objection and lack of tolerance for discriminatory religious interference in our civil affairs.
    Instead of legislation that attempts to rewrite the First Amendment, we need legislation that further protects those whom religion discriminates against, and we need to tax their revenue and property, like any other business that sells an intangible product.

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