Good news. Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA-4) has generously requested a meeting with representatives of the Autism Action Network to discuss his House Resolution, H. R. 5272, the "Do No Harm Act." In a letter received yesterday Rep. Kennedy wrote, "I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your legal analysis of the "Do No Harm Act" and how we might work together to advance research and treatments for autism while still protecting religious freedoms guaranteed to each American in the Constitution."
A meeting in his district is being scheduled. We believe that language in the bill could be used to eliminate religious exemption rights from vaccine mandates. We do not believe the intention of the bill is to threaten vaccine exemptions rights, but legislation can have all kinds of unintended and unforeseen consequences. Our goal is to assure H. R. 5272 is modified so that there is no conceivable threat to rights to religious exemptions from vaccine mandates.
From our friends at Autism Action Network:
Please call Congress today
Protect your religious exemption rights
Religious exemptions from vaccine mandates in all states are under threat from legislation in Congress that would severely curtail Americans' ability to exercise our First Amendment rights. House Resolution H. R. 5272, introduced by Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D-MA-4), seeks to limit The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, purportedly to prevent discrimination against one person by another person for religious reasons. But the bill is so broadly drawn that any exercise of religious belief that conflicts with any federal policy, whether based on law, regulation or executive order, could be considered discrimination and therefore illegal. Kennedy's bill in effect repeals the idea that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Here's what you can do, first if you are an Autism Action Network subscriber, or support the work we do, please help us to fight this bill by making a donation to our annual fundraising drive here:
Next click on the link below and to send a message to your member of the House of Representative and your two US Senators expressing your opposition to H. R. 5272.
And please call the offices of your two US Senators and your Representative and politley let them know you want them to oppose Kennedy's H.R. 5272 and any other legislation that will weaken our rights under the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom restoration Act of 1993.
In what can only be a perverse pun, Kennedy named the bill the "Do No Harm Act" turning on its head the proscription to physicians associated with the Hippocratic oath to "First, do no harm" to patients under their care.
Among other provisions, H. R. 5272 prohibits using religious reasons as a basis to deny "access to, information about, provision of or coverage for, any healthcare item." There is no reason why this language could not be used to argue that a religious exemption is an illegal use of religious beliefs as a basis to deny a child a "healthcare item."
Kennedy's bill would allow anyone who feels threatened, or even offended, by anyone else's child (or an adult) foregoing a vaccine for a religious reason to claim the exemption is a form of discrimination. The bill states religious freedom "should not be interpreted to authorize an exemption from generally applicable law that imposes meaningful harm, including dignitary harm, on a third party. " "Dignitary harm," we believe this term is so vague that your First Amendment rights could take a backseat to some busybody getting in a snit.
Forty-seven still states have religious exemptions. Rep. Kennedy's bill may provide the grounds to challenge state exemption laws in federal courts as a form of religious discrimination.
Kennedy's bill has gathered 30 co-sponsors so far. No similar legislation has been introduced in the US Senate yet. You can read the bill here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5272
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