Lee Testimony on First Amendment Defense Act [UPH Wire]

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

*Lee Testimony on First Amendment Defense Act*

WASHINGTON—This morning, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will testify
before the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee on the First Amendment Defense Act
(FADA). Remarks
as prepared for delivery

are available below.

*Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and members of the Committee:
thank you for holding this hearing today and for inviting me to testify in
support of the First Amendment Defense Act. It’s an honor to be here and to
participate with my fellow witnesses and all of you in this important
discussion. *

*I would like to preface my statement today by issuing a challenge to all
of those involved in this debate here on Capitol Hill and across the
country – myself included. As we engage in dialogue with one another about
this highly charged topic, let’s commit to treating one another with
respect and courtesy, as fellow citizens rather than as adversaries. Let’s
insist on hashing out our honest differences honestly. It’s too easy to
assume the worst in those with whom you disagree, to impugn their motives
so you don’t have to listen to their arguments. Let’s be better than that
today. We all came here to talk, but let’s not forget also to listen.*

*And with that, I’ll now spend a few more minutes talking.*

*The most important feature of the First Amendment Defense Act is its
exceptionally narrow scope. If enacted, the bill would do one thing and one
thing only: it would prevent the federal government from discriminating
against particular disfavored religious beliefs. *

*There are other forms of discrimination in the world – for instance, the
discrimination that may occur between two private parties. But these are
entirely different issues, unrelated to the First Amendment Defense Act. *

*This bill deals exclusively with a most pernicious form of discrimination
in which the federal government singles out certain religious beliefs for
disfavored treatment. The bill is so narrowly focused because it is a
targeted response to particular legal developments that have taken place in
the past year. *

*In the wake of last year’s decision by the Supreme Court in the same-sex
marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, many millions of Americans were left
wondering: What does this mean for me? *

*Many wondered what the Court’s decision would mean for the countless
institutions within our civil society – churches and synagogues, charities
and adoption agencies, counseling services and religiously affiliated
schools – that are made up of American citizens who believe marriage is the
union of one man and one woman. For instance, now that the Supreme Court
had discovered a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, would a school
that holds the belief that marriage is the union between one man and one
woman be in danger of losing its tax-exempt status?*

*More than one year after the Obergefell decision, these questions remain
unanswered. *

*On the one hand, the Court’s majority opinion in the Obergefell case
reiterated the meaning of religious liberty that has always been understood
in America when it stated, “The First Amendment ensures that religious
organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach
the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and
faiths.” *

*But on the other hand, there was the ominous exchange between Supreme
Court Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during
oral arguments in the case that seemed to suggest that the Obama
administration would be comfortable with the notion that the IRS could
revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions – including schools
– that maintain the traditional definition of marriage. *

*The First Amendment Defense Act is a very narrow and targeted legislative
response to these still unanswered questions. The bill reaffirms the letter
and spirit of the First Amendment, by stating unequivocally that the
federal government may not revoke or deny a federal tax exemption, grant,
contract, accreditation, license, or certification to an individual or
institution based on a religious belief about marriage.*

*The First Amendment protects each of us from punishment or reprisal from
the federal government for living in accordance with our deeply held
religious or moral convictions. Adhering to these convictions should never
disqualify an individual from receiving federal grants, contracts, or a tax
status. *

*What an individual or organization believes about marriage is not – and
should never be – a part of the government’s eligibility rubric in
distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants. And the First Amendment
Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America – that
federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who
believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their
living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation,
their tax status, or their eligibility to receive grants, licenses or
contracts. *

*The First Amendment Defense Act is absolutely critical to the many
charitable and service organizations in this country whose convictions
about marriage are fundamental to their work and mission. Guaranteeing the
full protection of these organizations’ First Amendment rights will ensure
that faith-based adoption agencies are not forced to discontinue their
foster care and adoption services on account of their belief that every
child needs a married mother and father. It will protect religiously
affiliated schools from losing their accreditation or being compelled to
eliminate housing options for students. And it will protect individuals,
regardless of their beliefs about marriage, from being deprived of
eligibility for federal grants, licenses, and employment because of their
deeply held convictions.*

*Now, you may hear tall tales – and some outright falsehoods – about this
bill. Some may suggest that FADA would give private businesses a license
to violate anti-discrimination laws with impunity. This is just not so.
The bill does not preempt, negate or alter any anti-discrimination measures
or civil-rights laws, state or federal. To be clear: this bill does not
take anything away from any individual or group, because it does not modify
any of our existing civil-rights protections. *

*The First Amendment Defense Act does not allow federal workers or
contractors to deny services or benefits to same-sex couples; and it does
not allow hospitals to refuse medically necessary treatment or visitation
rights to individuals in same-sex relationships. *

*I invite everyone to read the bill, so you can see in black and white that
the First Amendment Defense Act does not do any of these things. It simply
affirms all Americans’ God-given, constitutionally-protected right to live
according to their religious or moral convictions without fear of
punishment by the government – especially when it comes to operating
churches, schools, charities, or businesses. It recognizes that religious
liberty in America has always meant that the government’s job is not to
tell people what to believe or how to discharge their religious duties, but
to protect the space for all people of all faiths – and of no faith at all
– to seek religious truth and to order their lives accordingly.*

*Questions surrounding marriage today are difficult, and reasonable people
of good faith will reach different judgments about how best to protect
religious liberty. But the First Amendment must remain our lodestar. And I
believe any differences of opinion can be constructively worked out – even
and especially as to particular provisions of this bill – if our shared
concern remains preserving the American tradition of religious liberty. I
hope it is.*

*Thank you. *

*Communications Director*
Conn Carroll

*Press Secretary*
Emily Long


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