Rep. Joseph Kennedy III [D-Mass.] has proposed a bill that would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to prevent government employees or federal contractors from making claims of religious conscience to avoid supporting practices such as same-sex marriage or providing housing to members of the LGBT community.
The bill, the “Do No Harm Act,” co-authored by Rep. Bobby Scott [D-Va.], purports to return the RFRA to its original intent of protecting individual belief by drawing into focus the constitutional and statutory rights of others. In other words, the bill claims to prevent infringement on civil liberties by confining religious liberty to actual acts of religious devotion and worship outside of the sphere of government.
“Our system must ensure that my religious freedom does not infringe on yours or do you harm. While not its original intent, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has become a vehicle for those seeking to impose their beliefs on others or claim that the tenants of their faith justify discrimination. The Do No Harm Act will restore the balance between our right to religious freedom and our promise of equal protection under law,” Kennedy said in a statement.Scott said the RFRA has been “misconstrued” to allow “the sincerely-held religious beliefs of one person to trump the civil rights of others. Civil rights are a compelling government interest, and we cannot allow so-called ‘religious freedom,’ ‘religious liberty’ or ‘faith-based initiatives’ to invalidate the very laws designed to correct generations of injustices on minorities.”
As I read it, I could feel my blood start to boil. There is no “balance between our right to religious freedom and our promise of equal protection under law,” the equal protection under dispute currently is a function of, at best, rhetorical fluidity and at worst self-interested claims of immutable characteristics designed purposefully to minimize religious influence in society. The fundamental presumptions on the two apparent sides of this discussion guarantee there is no legal resolution, there is only philosophical debate on those fundamental levels. Thus the government should just throw its hands up and walk away. But that obviously is not happening.
Worse yet, is that the fundamental presumptions of the religious/conservative side of this debate virtually guarantee a “win” for the other side. The liberal side is willing to destroy what makes the nation great to get what they want – we are not.
Just about the time I get to that point and am ready to lash out in justifiable righteous anger, I remember Jesus. He found Himself in exactly the same position. And rather than lash out or start a revolution He went to the cross. By all appearances He lost.
Until about three days later.
There is a long view here. We may not see it, but God does. Our job is to be true to our fundamentals and rely on God to take care of the long view. I do not know what tomorrow has in store; I know that at times it looks bleak. There are times I find myself on my knees praying earnestly for something different. Sometimes the pressure seems so immense I wonder if I might actually sweat blood.
Jesus got up from that prayer, chided Peter and healed one of those sent to arrest Him. That’s our example. That is our call.