(CNSnews.com) - Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) says that if his First Amendment Defense Act fails to pass, “religious individuals and institutions could lose everything from tax-exempt status to government contracts, government employment and things like that.”
Lee and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) introduced the bill in June that would bar the federal government from imposing penalties on individuals, businesses, and religious organizations acting “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
“This would help create a helpful protective barrier around religious freedom to make sure it is not infringed, to make sure the government doesn’t punish religious belief,” Lee told CNSNews.com
“So, if it doesn’t pass that’s my fear- is that religious individuals and institutions could lose everything from tax-exempt status to government contracts, government employment and things like that. That’s just not something our government ought to be involved in - they shouldn’t be involved in making value judgments on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief,” Lee said.
The gay and lesbian political action committee, The Human Rights Campaign, quickly criticized the measure after it was introduced.
“Not only is it wrong to promote discrimination with taxpayers’ money, it’s even worse to allow those taxpayer funds to be used to reward discriminatory actions by federal employees,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “We call on members of Congress to oppose this reckless and irresponsible legislation that has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with taxpayer-funded discrimination.”
But Lee's response to critics is: “The fact that anyone would even call it that, the fact that they would refer to this as that shows a basic disconnect. A basic misunderstanding of religious freedom.”
“The whole point of religious freedom is that people ought to be able to live, believe and worship as they see fit without interference by the government, whether that interference be economic or otherwise,” Lee continued.
“I view this as something that is necessary to protect the American people against one of the most pernicious forms of discrimination that exists, which is discrimination by government against people based on their religious belief.”
The measure has gained 25 co-sponsors in the Senate and 98 co-sponsors in the House, both House and Senate versions have been introduced and referred to committees.