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District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser has signed into law two bills that will severely damage the religious freedom of Catholic educational institutions and organizations in the nation’s capital.
The first bill, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, could coerce religious organizations to work with and hire those in favor of abortion and force employers to cover elective abortions in their health plans, regardless of their religious objections.
The second, the Human Rights Amendment Act, repeals an exemption that protected religious schools and universities from approving or funding homosexual advocacy. This new law would effectively force schools to recognize LGBT student groups or advocacy groups on campus.
In October, The Cardinal Newman Society joined The Catholic University of America and the D.C. Catholic Conference in warning the D.C. City Council that such a bill would violate the religious freedom of Catholic schools and universities.
According to the Council’s interpretation, the exemption allowed “religiously-affiliated educational institutions to discriminate based on sexual orientation.” However, the exemption gave Catholic schools the ability to uphold their religious beliefs for the past 25 years and was not problematic, argued Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly.
In a column published in The Wall Street Journal, Reilly went on to note that the Council’s decision “has the appearance of an attack on traditional religious teachings on sexuality, rather than any substantial victory for gay rights.” He stressed that the “narrow exemption was never intended to hinder human rights, but to put a stop to the unreasonable demands of city officials.”
“It remains for Catholic families and educators to preserve faithful Catholic education, even at great cost,” Reilly stated in December concerning the Human Rights Amendment Act. “If America is no longer the land of the free, then at least we must remain brave enough to live and teach our beliefs without compromise while challenging unjust laws.”
Congress still has the ability to state its objection to the bills and protect the rights of D.C. residents. This action would then require both the House and Senate to pass a resolution, as well as the President’s signature, in order to overturn the new D.C. laws.
Kim Scharfenbergerwrites for Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. This article was originally published at Catholic Education Daily and is reprinted here with permission.