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2016-JUL: The federal FADA:
(First Amendment Defense Act):

2016-JUL: Part 4 of six parts:

More debate by the committee.
Reactions outside of Congress.
Amendments appear to have no effect.
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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2016-JUL-12: More debate about FADA at the House Oversight Committee:

  • Kristen K. Waggoner, is a legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal defense group that is heavily involved in conflicts between religious believers and the LGBT community. He said that the belief that the legislation would take away rights from gay people is spurious. He said:
  • "We’ve already today heard tall tales that Americans will lose rights under FADA if it is adopted,” Waggoner said. “Let us be clear that is not true. FADA is very limited in scope and it does not take away civil rights protections. Any suggestion to the contrary is not supported by the bill’s text." 1

  • Kelvin Cochran was the chief of the Atlanta fire Department. He was fired after publishing a book "Who Told You That You Were Naked" in 2013. 4 It attacked the morality of all same-gender sexual activity. The city conducted an investigation that showed that many of his command staff and firefighters were disgusted with the views that Cochran had expressed in the book. Mayor Kassim Reed suspended Cochran for a month and later fired him. A major reason that Reed gave for the firing was that Cochran had published a book that could have opened the City of Atlanta to lawsuits without first discussing it with the city's senior leadership. 2

    Cochran testified about the FADA bill before the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. He approved of the amendment, saying:

    "Equal rights, true tolerance, means, regardless of your position on marriage, you should be able to peaceably live out your beliefs and not suffer discrimination at the hands of the government. ..."

    "It is my desire to see legislation at the federal, state, and local levels that would protect any American [from being punished] in spite of or because of their belief about marriage and sexuality." 3

  • Barny Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, said:

    "I wish we had a bill to protect him. ... No one should be fired because of his or her political or religious beliefs that don’t have to do with the job."

He later expressed opposition to the FADA bill, saying:

    "This is personal. This bill empowers people to take my tax money and do things to exclude me and others like me." 3

  • Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) asked that committee members raise their hands if they believed:

    "It is acceptable for businesses in the United States to discriminate against employees because of their race."

He then repeated his request, but replaced the word "race" with words like "sex," "disability" None of the panelists raised their hands.

Finally, he challenged the committee, asking:

"What is the difference between discriminating against someone who is black and someone who is gay?" 5

  • Rep. Mick Mulvaney, (R-SC) tried the same technique on the committee. He asked them whether Cochran deserved to be fired because of his belief in traditional marriage. No panelists raised their hands.

Unfortunately, he did not ask a follow up question, like whether Cochran deserved to be fired for publishing a book that attacked gays and placed his employer at risk of a lawsuit.

But when he asked the panelists to raise their hands if they believe churches and other religious organizations deserve to lose tax-exempt status because of their beliefs about marriage, several members raised their hands. The panelists appear to be unaware of the freedom of belief guarantees in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the differences between religious beliefs and actions based on religious beliefs.

One of the panelists, Professor Catherine Franke of Columbia Law School, said, "It depends." 5

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Reactions to the amended version of FADA outside of Congress:

Maggie Gallagher was the founder and former president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). NOM was and continues to be the leading national group opposing gay marriage. She supports the proposed amendment to the FADA bill, calling it "viewpoint neutral." She wrote an article in the National Review in which she stated:

"... let’s tweak the language, by all means, and carefully consider the consequences. But I see nothing wrong in principle with promising to supporters of gay marriage that they won’t be punished by their government for their views, either." 6

That is, if a person, non-profit, educational institution, corporation, etc. supports gay marriage, they should be free to discriminate against those who oppose marriage equality without risking government prosecution based on human rights laws.

She concluded:

"I certainly do not want any pro–gay marriage people to lose their jobs, or their accreditation, or their licenses, or their livelihoods because of their views. And making the bill viewpoint-neutral makes it far more likely we get Anthony Kennedy’s vote. So let’s tweak the language, by all means, and carefully consider the consequences. But I see nothing wrong in principle with promising to supporters of gay marriage that they won’t be punished by their government for their views, either." 6

She referred to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who is considered a conservative but who often supports minorities in civil rights cases. She is apparently anticipating a future constitutional challenge to FADA if it becomes law.

Over 90 readers of the National Review article posted comments. Three of them were:

  • "Jim" posted:

    "Maggie has made a logical argument in favor of a genuine basic personal liberty -- the right of an individual to believe what he or she wishes to believe, regardless of how popular that belief is. The comments here show us, sadly, how few people across the political spectrum still accept that notion."

  • "blsdaniel" responded to "Jim:"

    "This is too coy by half. Believe? This isn't about the right to "believe"? It's about the right to take actions. Actions like refusing certain services, like allowing major public figures potentially publicly damage their own ability to appear fair minded, etc. Should these thing be allowed?

    Hell yes, they should be allowed.

    But this isn't about "believing". It's about actions. And to attempt to hint otherwise is little (if any) short of a lie."

  • "Drake" posted:

    "People of course can believe anything they want, they just can't deny rights to others and try to defend it by saying its 'my religious beliefs'. Gay marriage was ruled legal in all 50 states by SCOTUS, the debate is over, move on & get over it, like the majority of Americans already have." 6

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2016-JUL: The affect of the amendments to the FADA bill appear non-existent:

With the bill's recent amendments in place, if the religious or moral beliefs of an individual, company, non-profit, corporation, etc. opposed opposite-sex couples marrying, then they would be able to freely and with impunity discriminate against such couples. The impact of this amendments should be non-existent. To our knowledge, no individual, group, or organization has ever promoted the restriction of marriage to same-sex couples only. Such a restriction is unlikely to materialize in the future. Still, the amendment does add symmetry to the bill, in case opposition to what conservative call "natural marriage" were ever to occur.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Chris Johnson, "LGBT rights vs. ‘religious freedom’ on full display at hearing," Washington Blade, 2016-JUL-12, at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/
  2. Mike Paluska, "Report: Cochran's book appalled Atlanta firefighters," CBS 46 - Atlanta, 2015-JAN-06, at: http://www.cbs46.com/
  3. Kelsey Harkness, "At Religious Liberty Hearing, Democrats Unlikely Backers of Atlanta Fire Chief," The Daily Signal, 2016-JUL-12, at: http://dailysignal.com/
  4. book covr Kevin J. Cochran, "Who told you that you were naked?" 3G Publishing, Inc. (2013). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book. store. Available in Paperback format for $9.70 plus postage, or in Kindle format $4.69.
  5. Brandford Richardson, "First Amendment Defense Act raises debate on punishing belief against same-sex marriage," Washington Times, 2016-JUL-12, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/
  6. Maggie Gallagher, "Why I Support a Viewpoint-Neutral First Amendment Defense Act," National Review, 2016-JUL-29, at: http://www.nationalreview.com/

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Copyright © 2015 & 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-JUL-30
Latest update: 2016-AUG-01
Author: B.A. Robinson
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