Humanists Call on Senate to Pass the Do No Harm Act

The US Capitol Rotunda (photo by Architect of the Capitol)

I’ve written about the Do No Harm Act twice already this year. So, when I heard that Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was going to introduce the bill in the Senate, I questioned whether or not it was worthwhile to write yet another update for But the answer came nearly as quickly as the question; of course, it’s worthwhile to write another update. And hopefully, before the 117th Congress ends, I’ll get the opportunity to write more updates: on hearings, votes, and more.

Most legislation moves slowly, if it moves at all. So, when legislation we care about overcomes one of the hundreds of hurdles it has to jump to cross the finish line, that’s news worth sharing. It’s a moment to cheer our success, an opportunity for humanists to get more acquainted with the legislative process, and—most importantly—an opportunity to get involved.

As I wrote earlier this year, while the Do No Harm Act won’t fix everything overnight, it would finally ensure that federal nondiscrimination protections don’t play second fiddle to religion. As many of our readers are aware, the Do No Harm Act is a necessary fix for how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been nefariously misinterpreted and misapplied, most notably in the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which allowed closely held corporations to use religion to sidestep the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

This crucial bill would restore RFRA to its original intent and make it perfectly clear that no one in this country can use their religious beliefs to sidestep long-established civil rights protections in employment, healthcare, public services, and more.

And, as I wrote more recently, the Do No Harm Act was the spotlight of our largest lobby day to date. 65 humanists met with 50 members of Congress from 20 states to demonstrate the reach and depth of our support for this important bill. Coupled with coalition action, nudges over email, and loud support in the public sphere, and more, events like these help build momentum for our long-term legislative goals.

The Senate bill was introduced on Wednesday with 29 original cosponsors—an increase by four from last Congress. This small but notable uptick indicates momentum: our starting point in the Senate is closer to the proverbial finish line than where we started last year.

After dropping the bill Wednesday morning, Sen. Booker remarked, “Freely exercising your religion shouldn’t mean denying others of their civil rights. The Do No Harm Act rights the Supreme Court’s wrong, restoring the careful balance of the First Amendment by both protecting religious liberty and ensuring the law and religious beliefs cannot be wielded to deny people of their right to live free from discrimination.”

And now we need humanists’ help to keep the momentum going. Senators need to hear from constituents in support of the bill. We need to thank those who have already signed on, and ask those who haven’t yet done so for their support. Emailing your senators is easy—it takes only three minutes through our online action headquarters.

The companion bill in the House, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), would also benefit from our support. If you haven’t already thanked your Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for their support or asked them to sign on (if they haven’t already), please make sure to do so through our online action headquarters.