Three Months After Its Introduction, We Need The Freedom Of Religion Act More Than Ever.

Three months ago, in response to political rhetoric vilifying religious groups, Congressman Beyer and a group of Representatives introduced H.R. 5207, the Freedom of Religion Act, to prohibit the use of religious litmus tests as a means to ban immigrants, travelers, and refugees from entering the U.S.

A number of differing discriminatory proposals have been offered with hateful rhetoric to attack and demonize immigrants because of their religious beliefs still underlies these proposals. Sadly, recent events show that bigotry, hatred, and violent attacks continue to rise in the United States against the very religious minorities stigmatized by these candidates and policies.

We joined together in May to take a stand for toleration — and the Constitution — because we must ensure that our words in favor of justice and religious freedom are heard.

The words which my colleagues and I used to introduce the Freedom of Religion Act three months ago matter, even more so today as the consequences of religious discrimination come into sharper focus:

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)

“We cannot allow fear and paranoia to drive our public policy, especially when it comes to the defining values of our country.” — Rep. Don Beyer

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

“The first Americans were refugees from religious oppression. Many come today for the same reason. We betray our first principles when religion becomes a qualification for… exclusion from the United States.” — Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY)

“This bill is about the very foundation our nation was built on, and that is the idea of religious freedom. Not just for some, but for all… They’ll say that we’re pandering to minorities, that we’re being too PC. But you know what we’re being? We’re being Americans.” — Rep. Joe Crowley

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

“We are one nation, and we will only rise above the hatred spouted by terrorists abroad by staying united here at home.” — Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)

“The Constitution makes it the mission of our nation to fully defend the right to freely practice religion. It is sad that the mission must be written into a new law, but as long as that step is needed, I will absolutely support that law.” — Rep. Mike Honda

Rep. André Carson (D-IN)

“To turn our backs on immigrants would be to betray our nation’s core values…The United States has always been, and will continue to be, a country that welcomes people of all races, ethnicities, and religions… Blocking immigrants because of their religion would send a dangerous message to the world that the United States is no longer a beacon of freedom. As one of two Muslims in Congress, I know first-hand what it means to be attacked for my religion. Regardless of your religion…an attack one faith is an attack on all faiths. It’s an attack on the first amendment.” — Rep. Andre Carson

“As Americans, we take great pride in our Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. It would insult that tradition to impose a religious test at our border,” — Rep. Betty McCollum

“This bill will uphold our core values by guaranteeing that religion isn’t used to decide who can enter the country. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ It doesn’t say anything about a person’s faith.” — Rep. Keith Ellison

“Like many before them, those seeking to come to our country are doing so because they want a better future for themselves and their children. I hope House Republicans will join with us as cosponsors of this bill to send a strong message of support for our Constitution and the freedoms we hold dear and that have sustained us for generations.” — Rep. Steny Hoyer

Multiple faith-based organizations and civil liberties groups joined our House delegation on stage. Speakers included Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Yasmine Taeb, the Legislative Representative for Human Rights & Civil Liberties at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, Director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Lawrence Couch, Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance.

We have worked hard to expand support for the Freedom of Religion Act since it was introduced, thanks in part to advocacy from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Islamic Relief USA, and the Center For Inquiry, among many. I’m proud to report that H.R. 5207, originally introduced with the backing of over 100 organizations and faith groups, now has 112 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

We need to continue the pressure to push this bill forward and #ActFORFreedomOfReligion!

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