The First Amendment Defense Act: A New Bill Before Congress

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Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 decision that gay marriage is legal and required in all 50 states—the decision in explained here—the question now becomes what to do with those individuals, associations, or businesses who disagree.

It seems to me that we should support this new proposed bill designed to protect religious liberty and prohibit federal intrusion on the rights of conscience—specifically, to prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.

Here is the press release about it:

WASHINGTON – Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), today [June 17, 2015] reintroduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by safeguarding those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.

The First Amendment Defense Act  (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.

“There’s a reason the right to religious liberty appears first in our nation’s Bill of Rights,” said Senator Lee. “The freedom to live and to act in accordance with the dictates of one’s conscience and religious convictions is integral to human flourishing, serving as the foundation upon which America has produced the most diverse, tolerant, and stable society the world has ever known. The vast majority of Americans today still hold a robust view of religious liberty, yet across the country the right of conscience is threatened by state and local governments that coerce, intimidate, and penalize individuals, associations, and businesses who believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The First Amendment Defense Act is necessary to ensure that this kind of government excess never occurs at the federal level.”

“Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” Labrador said. “America set the standard for upholding freedom of belief and worship in a diverse society. No American should ever doubt these protections enshrined in the First Amendment. Our bill ensures that the federal government does not penalize Americans for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions on traditional marriage. Our bill shields against federal intrusion without taking anything away from anyone. In a shifting landscape, it’s time that Congress proactively defend this sacred right.”

There are currently 18 co-sponsors on the Senate bill and 57 co-sponsors on the House companion bill. Senate co-sponsors include Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE).

Similar bills were introduced in the 113th Congress as H.R. 3133 and S. 1808.

And here is the actual bill:

First Amendment Defense Act by Senator Mike Lee

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