Scott Statement on Trump Administration Actions Legalizing Discrimination

WASHINGTON – Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) issued the following statement after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued government-wide legal guidance that outlined broad exemptions for “religious freedom.”

“Today, the Trump Administration released a regulation that would limit access to contraceptive health services and a memorandum that misapplies federal law to facilitate employment-based discrimination.

“First, the Trump Administration issued regulations, effective immediately, that would exempt employers and institutions of higher education with moral or religious objections from the ACA’s requirement to provide health coverage for contraception.  Before today’s rules, certain employers with religious objections to providing contraceptive care were provided with an accommodation that still allowed women to receive contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance companies.  Affordable contraceptive services are a vital preventive health care service, imperative for the health and wellbeing of our nation's families and communities. More than 90% of women of reproductive age have used contraception in their lifetimes, and, before the ACA, an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket health care costs for women went towards contraception.  By misapplying religious freedom, these rules deny women access to safe, affordable contraceptive care, putting the health of workers and students at risk.

“Second, Attorney General Session released a memorandum today as a follow-up to President Trump’s May executive order that signaled an intent to expand religious exemptions.  The memorandum misinterprets the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to permit employers the use their sincerely held religious beliefs to discriminate in employment.  This a fundamental violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Further, the religious protections afforded under the First Amendment of the Constitution is turned on its head when an employer or university is allowed to impose their religious viewpoints on the free religious exercise of its employees or students.

“With each passing week, this Administration continues to dismantle the basic foundations of civil rights protections. Today’s announcements, coupled with yesterday’s notice from the Department of Justice that transgender individuals cannot be protected from employment discrimination by this Administration, makes clear that so-called ‘religious liberty’ and moral views are being used as a sword to cut down the right of others.  The original supporters of RFRA had envisioned the law as a shield to protect religious exercise, not a sword.

“I will continue to press for the consideration and passage of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 3222), introduced by Congressman Joe Kennedy and me.  The Do No Harm Act protects religious liberty and protects against discrimination by making clear that RFRA cannot be used to cause harm to others by overriding discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or healthcare services to which persons are otherwise legally entitled.” 

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