Dems Push to Strip Religious Liberties Protections

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WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats mad at the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling saw their attempt to fix it blocked on the Senate floor today. Fifty-six senators voted for the fix but it needed 60 votes to proceed.

The fix would have forced businesses, even those with religious objections, to fund contraception for their workers. But Republicans and other critics called it an attack on religious liberty.

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., sponsored the legislation. Critics attacked them about their bill at a morning news conference outside the U.S. Capitol building before the vote this afternoon.

What should you be looking out for the coming days? Travis Weber, with the Family Research Council, explains what's next in this push to strip protections for religious beliefs, following this report.

"The bill sponsored by Sen. Murray and others will be the first bill in American history brought before the Senate to restrict rather than protect the fundamental constitutional right of religious freedom," said Nathan Diament, with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.

The bill would have "fixed" the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA, which 97 senators voted for in 1993.

"RFRA has never been amended and for good reason," Heather Gonzales, with the National Association of Evangelicals, said. "It encapsulates a bedrock American principle - religious liberty is our first freedom embedded in the constitution and strengthened over more than two centuries of legislation, judicial decisions, and national experience."

The Senate bill would have outlawed American business owners using their religious beliefs to deny contraceptive coverage to their workers.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, co-sponsored RFRA and said this amending of it is dangerous.

"You've got to really think it through when you start infringing on religious freedom, the first freedom mentioned in our Bill of Rights," Hatch stated.

"Anytime any American's religious freedom is trampled upon every American should be deeply concerned," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., added.

The proposed bill would have even forced orders of nuns whose core belief is preservation of all life to fund abortifacient drugs.

"Now some politicians are taking these nuns and others to court because they're sticking too closely to their religious convictions," Melissa Swearingen, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, pointed out. "If we allow this to happen - the oppression of people's faith - what does this say about us as a country? Whose rights get trampled on next."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.