It shouldn’t be necessary, but Congress should demonstrate its support of religious freedom by passing U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene’s “No Religious Registry Act.”
Although it’s shocking that such a proposal would be needed in America, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene was wise to introduce a bill that would prohibit the government from creating religious registries.
DelBene’s “No Religious Registry Act” ought to receive support from the rest of Washington’s congressional delegation and be considered by Congress as soon as possible.
Lawmakers opposing this bill, and therefore favoring registries, must explain to their constituents how they support religious liberty, as provided by the First Amendment.
As a reminder of that cornerstone of our free country, here are the amendment’s first 16 words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
DelBene’s bill is necessary because President-elect Donald Trump and his advisers have repeatedly floated the noxious concept of a registry, which would tag people practicing a religion they dislike.
Today it’s Muslims but tomorrow it could be Evangelicals, Catholics or Mormons, if this became a country where presidents choose which religions can be practiced freely and which must be monitored like a dangerous dog.
Asked if a religious registry could happen, Trump’s coterie has offered mealy-mouthed denials and left openings to proceed. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Nov. 20, Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said there aren’t plans for a registry but added, “Look, I’m not going to rule out anything.”
Such zig-zaggy, weasel words provide little assurance that Trump has abandoned one of the more extreme, quasi-fascist pledges of his campaign.
Perhaps it’s a political strategy to gently let down Trump’s most fearful and bigoted supporters and preserve their support as his moderation emerges. Or maybe America is ending its 240-year run as land of the free and home of the brave.
Just the lingering possibility of a religious registry weakens America’s leadership.
We are the supreme example of how nations built on freedom, tolerance and democracy can succeed. This inspires other countries to follow our lead and gives us standing to advocate for democracy over theocracy and authoritarianism.
Compromising that role is more of a threat to America’s future than any religion or terrorist. It’s a surefire way to make America less great, at home and abroad.
Yet here we are in 2016, wondering if the incoming president will follow through on threats to erode religious freedom.
“This shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation,” said DelBene, D-Medina. “This is an important part of our Constitution and civil liberties. We should be making sure that people have the ability to have freedom of religion in our country. I put the bill out to make that strong statement.”
DelBene’s “No Religious Registry Act” is unfortunately needed to reassert and defend essential American values.
The proposal also provides an opportunity during uncertain times for members of Congress to demonstrate their support for Constitutional rights and religious freedom. Or lack thereof.