Interfaith Sign-on Letter in Opposition of First Amendment Defense Act

July 11, 2016

The Honorable Jason Chaffetz
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Washington, DC 20015

The Honorable Elijah Cummings
Ranking Member
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Washington, DC 20015

Press Release from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings:

In advance of tomorrow’s hearings on Religious Liberty and H.R. 2802, the ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ (FADA), the undersigned organizations, representing a diverse group of beliefs and faith traditions, write to express our opposition to this measure, (S. 1598/H.R. 2802), introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Raúl Labrador (R-ID). We would ask that this letter be included as part of the official hearings record.

Although our beliefs and faith traditions hold different views about the nature of human sexuality and marriage, we all share a common teaching that all human beings deserve to live in dignity and with respect, and that we must treat all people fairly and equally. The “First Amendment Defense Act” directly contradicts these principles and reflects a profoundly misguided understanding of religious freedom. 

This bill falsely suggests that the protections of the First Amendment are certainly inadequate to ensure robust religious freedom. Instead, it authorizes government-sanctioned discrimination against married same sex couples and persons having sexual relations outside of marriage. Indeed, the “First Amendment Defense Act” violates the core constitutional principle that the federal government will not prefer a faith tradition or religious tenet over another by endorsing and privileging certain religious perspectives on marriage and sexuality.

Despite the misleading rhetoric of the bill’s supporters, our Constitution and nation’s laws already fully protect clergy and houses of worship of all faith traditions from being required to sanctify or approve of any marriage or other relationships that violate their religious tenets, nor may the government deny them their tax-exempt status on that basis. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and United States v. Windsor (2013) in no way impact these long-standing protections.

The “First Amendment Defense Act” in fact appears to violate the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings by authorizing disparate treatment of lawfully married same-sex couples for the purpose of determining federal benefits and protections. Specifically, it empowers federal employees, federal contractors and grantees, non-profit organizations and many for-profit businesses receiving tax-payer dollars to use their religious views on marriage and sexuality as a basis to refuse to serve legally married same-sex couples and their families, as well as many others, including single moms and survivors of sexual violence.

We firmly believe that current law protects the ability of all religions and denominations to flourish in the United States, assuring robust religious freedom rights so that people of all faiths can live according to their beliefs and traditions. And current law also provides broad support for the right of America’s houses of worship to make their own decisions regarding marriage and sexual relations. This far-reaching and deeply harmful bill, on the other hand, distorts American principles of religious freedom to sanction targeted taxpayer-funded discrimination.

We urge you to oppose this unjust legislation.


African American Ministers In Action
American Atheists
Americans for Religious Liberty
Anti-Defamation League
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Catholics for Choice
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Council for Secular Humanism
Disciples Justice Action Network
Equal Partners in Faith
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Institute for Science and Human Values
Interfaith Alliance
Jewish Women International
National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbinical Assembly
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Women of Reform Judaism