Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2015 / 16:11 pm America/Denver (CNA).
With religious freedom under assault in the U.S. capital, the Archdiocese of Washington is rallying behind its “only legislative recourse” left.
The archdiocese announced its support of “two resolutions disapproving the unprecedented attack on religious freedom” in the District of Columbia. It was joined by a number of religious and pro-life groups in its support of the resolutions, which were introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.).
The Senate resolutions oppose two new D.C. laws with which Catholic institutions say they cannot comply out of conscience. The laws were passed in December, and signed into law in January by the city's mayor, Muriel Bowser (D).
The first, the Human Rights Amendment of 2014, forces religious schools to recognize persons and groups who might conflict with their stated mission and allow them use of their facilities and benefits. For example, a Catholic school would be forced to officially recognize an openly-gay student group and could not deny them use of its facilities.
The second, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014, prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees over their “reproductive health decision making.” Thus, a Catholic or pro-life group could not make employment decisions based on their employees’ decision to act contrary to the mission – such as procuring an abortion, for example.
Congress has 30 days to review the bills, which are slated to become law on April 17.
The archdiocese has been joined in its opposition to the laws by various groups and schools in the city, including the Knights of Columbus, the U.S. bishops conference, the Catholic University of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The laws “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government” and “result in discrimination against religious believers,” the archdiocese said in its Mar. 18 statement.
The general counsel for the Catholic University of America, Lawrence Morris, told CNA in February that if the bills become law, the school has not planned on taking legal action. He added that if action is taken against them, “we will vigorously defend ourselves,” citing protections under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Sen. Lankford chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees D.C. laws. He called the laws “a major threat” to the religious freedom of persons and organizations in the city “and a brazen display of intolerance.”
“We must stop this assault on the Catholic Church, and we must act to protect religious liberty,” stated Sen. Cruz, who joined him in authoring the resolutions.