Secular Coalition Condemns Reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2018

Washington, DC — The Secular Coalition for America released a statement today condemning the reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The bill, reintroduced by Utah Senator Mike Lee with 21 cosponsors, would allow for religiously-based discrimination by federal contractors, individuals, nonprofits, and businesses.

“The First Amendment Defense Act would do exactly the opposite — it would destroy the First Amendment,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This appalling and deceptively titled bill does nothing to protect religious freedom. Instead, FADA gives religious bigots a sweeping license to discriminate against anyone whose lifestyle doesn’t conform to their beliefs. Under FADA, a federally funded homeless shelter could turn away an LGBT person, a federally funded university could fire an unwed professor simply for becoming pregnant, or federal employees could refuse to process paperwork for same-sex couples. These examples only scratch the surface of what will happen if this Pandora’s Box of religious discrimination is signed into law.”

“There is no doubt that the sole purpose of this legislation is to elevate a very specific set of religious beliefs above the law,” said Decker. “The sponsors of this bill will inevitably deny that their intention is to sanction discrimination. We will not allow them to use religious freedom as a fig leaf to mask their bigotry.”

Currently, federal contractors employ 26 million workers, about 22 percent of the United State’s workforce. If FADA is signed into law, it will place these millions of Americans at risk, allowing employers to fire them for not adhering to their religious beliefs.

“Taxpayer money should never be used to support discrimination, and an individual’s access to government services should never be jeopardized by someone else’s religious beliefs,” said Decker. “These are common sense principles that flow from the First Amendment, which established the secular character of our government and guarantees all Americans the freedom of, and from, religion. The only thing the First Amendment needs to be protected from are the sponsors and supporters of FADA.”

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