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NAACP Calls on the Federal, State, and Local Governments to Establish a Better Balance Between Religious Freedoms and Civil Rights

WHEREAS, in 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to expand protections for religious exercise as a response to the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith – a case regarding the ceremonial use of peyote by American Indians. Under RFRA, Congress gave religious liberty a heightened protection requiring that government action may only substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it is in the furtherance of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means to achieve that interest; and

WHEREAS, while attempting to strike a careful balance, the 1993 federal RFRA bill actually grants legal legitimacy to the imposition of harm, as it is the essence of "establishment" and thus runs afoul of the First Amendment; and

WHEREAS, since the passage of the 1993 Federal RFRA, twenty-one states have passed convoluted state versions of RFRA and there is growing concern about how RFRAs may be used by some as a sword (and not a shield) to advance harm to the rights of others in the pursuit of racial and other prejudices in one's "sincerely held" beliefs; and

WHEREAS, for example, Georgia passed a so-called religious freedom bill which was vetoed by the governor after the criticism of over 400 major companies, and an African American lawmaker was able to get the sponsor of the so-called religious liberty bill to admit that the legislation would, in fact, protect the KKK; and

WHEREAS, any balanced response to the need to guard the civil and human rights of every person while at the same time allowing an individual to pursue his or her "sincerely held religious beliefs" must ensure the protection against discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity, including those found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964; must guarantee that there is no denial of workplace protections or protections against child abuse; must make certain there are no limitations on access, information, referrals, or coverage of healthcare items or services; must make sure that services to beneficiaries through a government contract, grant, or cooperative agreement are not compromised in any way; and that there is never any denial of accommodations or other benefits and services protected by the government.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the NAACP advocate for, and support the "Do No Harm Act". H.R. 572, which amends the 1993 federal RFRA law to ensure that it is not in any way abusive or misconstrued to promote or permit discrimination against any individual or class of people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will provide its units with information on specific proposed legislation that would violate this principle; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP calls upon its members and units to ensure that federal, state, and local laws are not passed in the name of "religious freedom" which would permit any individual, business, or local or state government body to deny any person his or her basic civil rights.