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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. Chairman, my amendment would prohibit funds from being used to implement the District of Columbia's Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, or RHNDA.

This law prevents religious and pro-life advocacy organizations from making employment decisions consistent with their institutional mission. The First Amendment States in part that ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . . ''

Without my amendment, some employers in the District of Columbia would be forced to embrace the beliefs of the 13 members of the D.C.

Council. D.C. allows abortions until the moment of birth, but a number of organizations in D.C.--such as March for Life, Americans United for Life, and the Susan B. Anthony List--exist solely to protect the sanctity of life.

The Constitution provides them the right to exercise those beliefs just like it does those who oppose it. That is why, when the District passed RHNDA, former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray described it as ``legally problematic'' saying: `` . . . the bill raises serious concerns under the Constitution, and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. ... ''

My amendment would restore religious freedom to employers inside the District of Columbia. Those who want to have an abortion do not have to work for employers who oppose them. They have life and the liberty to pursue their own interests with another employer. Mr. Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Chairman, in spite of numerous requests--with all due respect to the gentlewoman from Colorado and the distinguished Delegate from the District of Columbia--in spite of numerous requests, no exemptions were included in the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act for either moral or religious objections. I think my colleague from Colorado just pointed that out, that they intended no exceptions.
RHNDA, as enacted, has no religious exemption, and legislative history suggests it may have been passed specifically to target faith- based employers.

Nobody should be forced to take a position one way or the other, or be able to hire them. By leaving this in place, it exposes employers to potential lawsuits.

I would like to point out that, in regard to Congress' authority over this issue, Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution states that Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over the District.

Mr. Chair, I take exception to my colleague's point that it is acceptable to infringe on the religious liberties of certain people who actually believe in protecting life. The Constitution does not provide for only a certain group to practice their religion, but everyone has a right to practice his or her religion. No government interest can overcome that constitutional right.

Mr. Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Chairman, I want to remind people of what former Mayor Gray wrote in his letter: ``Religious organizations, religiously affiliated organizations, religiously driven for-profit entities, and political organizations may have strong First Amendment and RFRA grounds for challenging the law's applicability to them.'' The Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC decision made it clear--this was a unanimous decision--that organizations are free to hire people who are like-minded and who support their views. In regard to federalism, the Constitution gives Congress the right to legislate over the District of Columbia. If D.C. won't respect the rights of its citizens, then it is Congress' duty to ensure the laws of D.C. comply with Federal law and the Constitution.

Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and vote ``yes,'' and I yield back the balance of my time.

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