Religious liberty bill, unthinkable during Obama presidency, reborn in the age of Trump
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Republican senators have breathed new life into a religious liberty protection bill, the passage of which was deemed hopeless while Barack Obama occupied the oval office.
The newest version of the bill, however, also contains language that labels support for same-sex “marriage,” as long as recognized by federal law, a “religious liberty” issue like belief in man-woman marriage.
On Thursday, Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, reintroduced The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). It is a bill designed to prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals or institutions based on their beliefs about marriage.
“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not – and should never be – a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants,” said Sen. Lee.
“And the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America – that federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation or their tax status,” he said.
FADA prohibits the federal government from taking adverse action against individuals or institutions based on their definition of marriage or beliefs about premarital sex. It creates a cause of action in federal court for individuals or institutions that have been discriminated against by the government. Plaintiffs can seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and compensatory damages.
Included in the latest version of FADA are protections for beliefs about “marriages” between “two individuals as recognized under Federal law,” meaning one could claim support for same-sex “marriage” as a conscience issue.
Despite this apparent olive branch to their cause, the LGBT movement remains firmly against FADA, with the homosexual lobby group the Human Rights Campaign saying “it will roll back critical protections for LGBTQ people and their families.”
FADA was introduced in both the House and Senate in 2015, but never saw the light of day since legislators were assured that then-President Obama would never sign it into law.
While on the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump promised he would sign the measure if it were sent to his desk, saying that it would “protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
“Without FADA, federal bureaucrats are free to punish individuals or institutions that have a different definition of marriage than they do,” explains a summary of the bill provided by Senator Lee’s office. “For example, during oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges, President Obama's Solicitor General admitted that, if the Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the IRS might subsequently deny tax-exempt status to any religious school that wanted to continue operating in accordance with their belief in the traditional definition of marriage.”
FADA supporters say just as Congress protected Americans from being punished for refusing to participate in abortions after Roe v. Wade, their bill prevents people from being punished for their beliefs about marriage.
There are currently 21 co-sponsors on the Senate bill, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
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