Religious groups say new DC laws violate their constitutional freedoms

The South Lawn of the White House is pictured in Washington January 26, 2015.Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

Religious groups are expressing opposition to the passage of two laws in Washington D.C. on the grounds that these laws will violate their constitutional freedoms.

According to the Catholic News Service, eight groups have signed a joint statement dated February 5 and addressed to the U.S. Congress requesting representatives to disapprove the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 and the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014. 

These organisations are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, The Catholic University of America, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Association of Evangelicals, CNS reported.

According to the group, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 will violate the freedom of "religious institutions, faith-based employers and pro-life advocacy organizations in the District of Columbia" to make employment decisions that are based on their beliefs, faith and principles on the "sanctity of human life."

On the other hand, the letter stated, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 will force religious educational institutions to "endorse, sponsor and provide school resources to individuals or groups that oppose the institutions' religious teachings regarding human sexuality."

The groups claim that the two laws violate their rights under the First Amendment as well their rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

"While we will continue to serve the city and the nation," the group's letter stated. "[W]e cannot surrender the constitutional freedoms that the framers of the U.S. Constitution rightly reserved to all of us."

CNS stated that the laws have not yet been conveyed to Congress, in which they will have to undergo a 30-day review. Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have to sign a joint resolution to overturn the two bills, which have already been signed by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. The President also has to sign the joint resolution.