Byrne: ‘We need to stand up for people of faith who are under attack in America today’
Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Tuesday delivered an impassioned defense of religious freedom, calling out efforts by congressional Democrats to strip the God-given, constitutional right away from Americans.
Byrne’s remarks came during a House Committee on Education and Labor hearing regarding an attempt by Democrats to weaken the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA).
After quoting House floor proceedings from 1993 in which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) glowingly praised the RFRA, Byrne slammed the newfound “intolerant minority” Democratic efforts to relegate religious freedom to a secondary right.
“This bill, in essence, would make everybody’s right to freely exercise their religion a secondary right,” Byrne emphasized. “Well, to millions—tens of millions—it is the primary source of their meaning in life, and the Democrats would take that away from them.”
Byrne’s remarks as follows:
I wish that my colleagues would actually go back and read the Congressional Record from twenty-six years ago. Back then, Republicans and Democrats alike were united in a belief that the fundamental right of Free Exercise of Religion was worthy of the highest level of judicial protection.
Congress did not enact a guaranteed win for people of faith but restored a balancing test, the religious individual’s or organization’s exercise against the government’s compelling interest in restricting that activity.
The government is winning over 80% of these cases! Yet, the few wins people of faith have gotten in recent years have really upset this majority.”
This hearing is titled ‘The Misapplication of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,’ but it should be clear to all that RFRA is being applied exactly as it was intended. The difference is not the law. It is in my Democratic colleagues’ point of view since 26 years ago.
Frankly, this committee should question why we are even considering taking away the rights of citizens to freely practice their faith. This legislation does not live up to the ideals of our great nation’s Constitution, and we need to stand up for people of faith who are under attack in America today.
There is a fundamental conflict in values in this country, and there is a determined minority, an intolerant minority, that would tell the majority in this country who are people of faith ‘you cannot exercise your faith because we find it repugnant in some way.’ Well, that is not what the Constitution is about. That’s not the reason this country was founded. This country was founded so we could all freely exercise our religion—that is not a secondary right.
This bill in essence would make everybody’s right to freely exercise their religion a secondary right. Well, to millions–tens of millions—it is the primary source of their meaning in life, and the Democrats would take that away from them. For what? For a handful of cases that have gone the other way, when 80-plus percent have gone the government’s way?
That’s how fundamental the conflict in values in this country has become, and we in this Congress should stand up for the majority of Americans who have Judeo-Christian values and say you can continue to exercise your faith and we, the government, are not going to take that away from you.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn