Protecting Religious Freedom in D.C.

Status: The D.C. City Council is working to undermine religious liberties in its jurisdiction.  Two bills—both passed by the D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser—will saddle religious organizations and employers with a choice between upholding their beliefs as they perform their organizational missions or complying with a coercive government regulation that forces them to violate their beliefs and missions.

  • The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act: The bill would force pro-life employers in the District to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans. The Act could also force religious and pro-life employers opposed to abortion to hire openly pro-choice employees.  For private organizations to be required to hire someone with a viewpoint diametrically opposed to their core principles is a serious infringement on the right of free association.
  • The Human Rights Amendment Act: Also passed before Christmas, this bill eliminates a 1989 provision passed by Congress that protects religious educational organizations from being coerced into “promoting, encouraging, or condoning any homosexual act, lifestyle orientation, or belief.”  Under the Human Rights Amendment Act, a religious school could be forced to host a gay pride day, “coming out” day, or support a student group dedicated to furthering LGBT activities.  These infringements undermine a major reason why parents choose private schools over public schools: the fact that these institutions are often more harmonious with parents’ deeply held religious values.  The Amendment could also require these organizations to hire employees whose personal values conflict with longstanding religious doctrine.

Congress and the D.C. Government: Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District. Under that law, which remains in effect today, the D.C. City Council acts as a legislature for the district unless it is explicitly overruled by Congress.

Congressional Overrule: When D.C. passes a law, the City Council transmits the law to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.  Once the transfer is complete, a review period of roughly thirty days begins. If, within the review period, both houses of Congress pass a joint resolution disapproving the law, and the President signs the joint resolution, the D.C. law is overturned.  If he does not, the law goes into effect.

Call to Action: Religious freedom is a core American value.  Activists are encouraged to urge their representatives to use their authority over Washington, D.C.’s government to stop these intrusive and flawed laws from going into effect.

 

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FAST FACTS: Higher education reform and opportunity (Hero) act

HERO Act (Higher education reform and opportunity act) 

  • “The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act would not only make the cost of higher education more affordable, but also make it easier for students to customize their own education and gain the specific skills they need to compete in today’s economy,” Senator Lee, January 9, 2014.
  • Empowers states to develop their own accreditation systems to accredit colleges, individual courses within colleges, apprenticeship programs, and curricula.
  • Any state-accredited educational institution, program, or course would then be eligible for federal funding such as student loans.

Heritage Research

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Fast Facts: EXPAND Act

Energy Exploration and Production to Achieve National Demand (EXPAND) Act

  • Opens up access to leasing, exploration, and production in more areas in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the Alaskan Coastal Plain.
  • Allows states to develop programs that satisfy applicable federal laws to produce energy on federal lands.
  • Removes special tax breaks for all energy sources, including oil, gas, coal, and nuclear, which would spur energy technologies to be competitive.
  • Repeals the ethanol mandate.
  • Streamlines licensing and construction requirements for nuclear power plants and reforms the refinery permitting process.

Heritage Research

Nick Loris, “10 Ways the EXPAND Act Would Take the Energy Market in the Right Direction,” Issue Brief, February 4, 2014, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/02/10-ways-the-expand-act-would-take-the-energy-market-in-the-right-direction.

You can read more about Heritage Action’s policy plan by downloading the Heritage and heritage Action book:  “Opportunity for All and Favoritism to None”. 

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Fast Facts: PATH Act

Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act

  • Voted out of the House Financial Services Committee
  • Ends the dominance that the federal government has on the housing finance system by dissolving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Ends the taxpayer subsidies of Fannie and Freddie by phasing out their failed taxpayer-backed business model over a five-year transition period.
  • Returns the Federal Housing Administration to its traditional mission: serving first-time homebuyers and those with low and moderate incomes and ensuring it will be able to insure loans to any qualified borrow-ers if ever faced with another economic crisis.
  • Removes regulatory barriers to private capital to attract investment and encourage innovation.

Heritage Research

Support From Others

  • Wall Street Journal Editorial: “Hensarling unveiled legislation to close down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, add much-needed discipline to the Federal Housing Administration, and clear away regulatory barriers to more private housing capital.” Editorial, “Housing Reform Breakout,” The Wall Street Journal, July13, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324425204578597883614289330.
  • PATH Act is supported by Freedom Works, the National Taxpayers Union, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and Heritage Action.

You can read more about Heritage Action’s policy plan by downloading the Heritage and heritage Action book:  “Opportunity for All and Favoritism to None”. 

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Fast Facts: RAISE Act

The RAISE Act (Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees Act)

No governing agenda would be complete without addressing hardworking Americans’ need for more take homepay. That is especially important today, as the Great Recession, as well as rapidly advancing technology, has resulted in serious, continuing challenges for American workers.

While many conditions are beyond the government’s (or anyone’s) control, the fact is the government today artificially inflates the problems facing working Americans with misguided rules, regulations, and policies that make it harder than necessary for workers to thrive.

The RAISE Act would address one of these barriers. Currently, federal labor law supports union efforts to create wage ceilings on union members. As a result, unionized workplaces are often not allowed to give productive employees pay raises without re-opening negotiations with union bosses. This means that no matter how hard an employee works, he or she faces unnecessary barriers to getting a raise, even when his or her employer would like to reward that hard work with a raise. And this is not a simple matter of contract law between two private parties – this is an artificial concept explicitly supported by federal law.

The RAISE Act would fix this flaw in federal statute. It would allow employers to give their employees raises even if their union contract discourages it. Workers who work hard and provide value to their employers should be able to receive a raise; and the government should stop standing in their way.

Key Heritage Research

You can read more about Heritage Action’s policy plan by downloading the Heritage and heritage Action book:  “Opportunity for All and Favoritism to None”. 

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