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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious freedom to discriminate laws:

2015-6: Part 2 of six parts:

The federal FADA:
(First Amendment Defense Act):
Potential impacts if FADA becomes law.
Negative reactions to the bill.
Republican support for the bill.
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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Some negative reactions to the FADA bill:

  • The American Civil Liberties Union referred to FADA as:

    “... a Pandora’s Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children." 1

  • Maggie Garrett, the legislative director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State also opposes FADA. She stated:

    "The reason that we oppose this legislation is because it would sanction government funded discrimination. So, it would allow the government to give money to organizations, for contracts or to perform grants, but allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples. Of course, we strongly oppose government funded discrimination and oppose that bill." 2

  • Americans United's executive director, Barry Lynn, said that his personal interpretation of the Bible calls on Christians to be inclusive, not exclusive. He said:

    "I read the same Bible as the Religious Right, yet where they see a manifesto for exclusion and bigotry, I see a command to love and include. Where they see division, I see community. Where they see rejection, I see acceptance. With [our] Protect Thy Neighbor [program], we are putting the Religious Right on notice: Your politics of division, homophobia and exclusion will not stand. We are watching and we are reacting. We will meet you and, I suspect, beat you in Congress, in statehouses and in courtrooms." 2

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2015-DEC: Pledges of support for FADA by Republican politicians:

Six Republican candidates for the presidential elections in 2016-NOV signed a pledge jointly created by Heritage Action for America , American Principles Project, and FRC Action. The latter is the legislative affiliate of the Family Research Council. 1 The pledge states:

"If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President." 4

It is not clear how a candidate could make such a promise, because a President can only sign a bill into law if it has first been passed by both the House and Senate. The actions of Congress are beyond the control of Presidents. Passing this bill is quite likely to be strongly resisted by Democrats in Congress. If it is passed by Congress, it might be after 2017-MAR-26 when it arrives on the President's desk -- past the 100 day limit.

The six candidates were: "Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum." 5

In addition, four candidates did not sign the pledge but had expressed public support for FADA in the past. They were: Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and the successful Republican Party candidate for the Presidency, Donald Trump.

None of the Democratic Presidential candidates at the time, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders, signed the pledge. 6

In their letter to the presidential hopefuls, the three agencies that sponsored the pledge wrote:

"Serious scholars suggest religious schools should expect to be punished by the withholding of federal funds under current law if they do not treat same-sex unions as marriages. ..."

"When no less a distinguished legal expert than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, has pointed to the serious religious liberty consequences that may stem from the [U.S. Supreme] Court's redefinition of marriage, it is time to take the need for new conscience protections seriously." 5

By early 2016-FEB, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum had dropped their bid for the presidency, leaving four contenders in as signatories to the FADA pledge, all of whom dropped out of the race later in the year. This left Donald Trump as the Republican Candidate for the 2016 election.

Three conservative non-profits, all of whom have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have supported FADA. They are the Family Research Council, 7 the American Family Association, 8 and Liberty Counsel Action. 9,10 In addition, the National Organization for Marriage has indicated their support.

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2015-DEC: More reactions to the FADA bill:

  • Kira Lerner, writing for Think Progress, said:

    "If it become law, FADA would prohibit the federal government from stopping discrimination by people or businesses that believe 'marriage is or should be recognized [only] as the union of one man and one woman' or that 'sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage'." 1

  • Maggie Gallagher, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, wrote:

    "It has become clear that the First Amendment Defense Act is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP. ... Real, concrete protections for gay marriage dissenters appear to be just one election victory away." 1

  • Donald Trump responded to the pledge letter sent by the American Principles Project. He replied:

    "If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signatures and enactment." 6

  • He noted that the President is unable to pass legislation. That is the function of Congress. But he said that he would:

    "... certainly sign legislation that protects religious liberty for all. ... The priorities that the next president will need to establish are not known at this time. Protection of the nation and its citizens must come first. Getting the economy back on track must be near the top of the list. Preserving and protecting the rights of our citizens must also be in the mix." 6

  • Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign -- the largest national LGBT-positive organization -- said that Trump’s position on the FADA:

    "... is deeply troubling. It is a reminder to voters across the country of how important it is to elect a pro-equality president in 2016." 6

  • Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans -- a group of LGBT Republicans -- commented on Trump's response. He said:

    "I’ve said time and again that FADA is a non-starter in its current form; any chance it has of making it to the president’s desk — any president’s desk — would come only after significant amendment. In that light, Mr. Trump’s stated deferment of the legislation to congressional leadership makes prospects for FADA passage in a hypothetical Trump administration all the more unlikely." 6

  • Ryan T. Anderson is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He endorsed the FADA bill. Writing in The Daily Signal, he said:

    "FADA is a common sense policy. It would ensure that no federal agency will ever revoke non-profit tax-exempt status or deny grants, contracts, accreditation, or licenses to individuals or institutions for following their faiths' teachings about the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. ..."

    "But the politics of FADA are just as important as the policy. Far too few appreciate the grave risks to religious liberty in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling [that legalized gay marriage], and the most animated participants in the debate so far are those on the left. The best way to draw attention to this crucial issue and rally the American people is swift action designed to generate public awareness and maximize the contrast with the left's effort to trample over freedom of conscience." 11

  • Rich Lowry, writing in the National Review Online, said:

    "If supporters of same-sex marriage truly have no interest in punishing the exercise of religion they find objectionable, they can sign off on legislation to prevent it. Utah senator Mike Lee, a Republican, has a bill called the First Amendment Defense Act -- yes, it's come to that -- protecting organizations from government retaliation over their opposition to gay marriage." 11

  • Ed Morrissey posted a message in Hot Air, saying:

    The current FADA would at least keep progressives from using the massively destructive power of the IRS to destroy churches and the benefits they provide to American communities, which is one key reason why the tax exemption exists in the first place. Republican leadership in both the House and Senate should expedite the process for FADA, and perhaps set an example for the states to follow. 11

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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. Kira Lerner, "Six GOP Candidates Pledge To Sign Anti-Gay Discrimination Into Law," Think Progress, 2015-DEC-19, at:
  2. Samuel Smith, "Christian Colleges' Right to Deny Married Housing for Gay Couples Is 'on the Edge of the Indefensible,' Barry Lynn Asserts," Christian Post, 2015-JUL-07, at:
  3. "FRC Action Praises Presidential Candidates for Pledging Support to the First Amendment Defense Act," PR Newswire, 2015-DEC-18, at:
  4. "Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Fiorina Pledge to Sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)," American Principles Project, 2015, at:
  5. Michael Gryboski, "6 Presidential Candidates Pledge to Support Bill to Protect Gay Marriage Opponents," CP Politics, 2015-DEC-18, at:
  6. Chris Johnson, "Trump gives conditional support for ‘religious freedom’ bill," Washington Blade, 2015-DEC-23, at:
  7. "Tony Perkins, Southern Poverty Law Center extremist files, Southern Poverty Law Center," undated, at:
  8. "Bryan Fischer, Southern Poverty Law Center extremist files, Southern Poverty Law Center," undated, at:
  9. Hatewatch Staff, "Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch: Anti-LGBT Hate Group Liberty Counsel to Defend Indicted anti-Abortion Activist," Southern Poverty Law Center, undated, at:
  10. "Liberty Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center extremist files, Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, undated, at:
  11. Rachel Percelay, "The So-Called "First Amendment Defense Act" Is The Next Attack on LGBT Rights," Media Matters for America, 2015-JUL-28, at:

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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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