(JTA) — Some 22 liberal groups, most of them Jewish, condemned a bill that would protect religious institutions that promote traditional marriage from government sanction.
The First Amendment Defense Act would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate at same-sex weddings.
The bill was introduced last month by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Ind.).
Hearings on the bill will take place Wednesday in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In a letter to the committee about what they call the “unjust legislation,” the groups said that: “Although our beliefs and faith traditions hold different views about the nature of human sexuality and marriage, we all share a common teaching that all human beings deserve to live in dignity and with respect, and that we must treat all people fairly and equally. The ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ directly contradicts these principles and reflects a profoundly misguided understanding of religious freedom.”
“This bill falsely suggests that the protections of the First Amendment are certainly inadequate to ensure robust religious freedom,” the letter continued, saying that it “authorizes government-sanctioned discrimination against married same sex couples and persons having sexual relations outside of marriage.”
The legislation “violates the core constitutional principle that the federal government will not prefer a faith tradition or religious tenet over another by endorsing and privileging certain religious perspectives on marriage and sexuality,”according to the letter.
Among the groups that signed on to the letter are the Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hadassah, Jewish Women International, Keshet, National Council of Jewish Women, and Union for Reform Judaism.