Oklahoma Senator backs religious groups fighting for their religious rights

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
When a reporter asked if Congress should disapprove D.C.'s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, Senator James Lankford said "Yes." | Facebook/Senator James Lankford

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Christian Examiner) -- Religious organizations are asking Congress to disapprove two new ordinances passed by Washington, D.C. City leaders that violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and they appear to have found a champion in Oklahoma's newly elected Senator James Lankford.

Lankford (R), who co-chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus, told CNS News Feb. 11 that Congress should, in fact, disapprove the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014 signed into law by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the end of January. The local ordinance which would affect national organizations as well as local institutions based in the nation's capital is currently undergoing a 30-day review before being sent to Congress.

According to the news report, D.C's previous Mayor Vincent Gray had "significant legal concerns" about the law's viability under the U.S. Constitution and the RFRA.

A Feb. 6 release from the Catholic News Service announced the religious groups drafted a letter to Congress urging them to disapprove the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act which "prevents religious institutions, faith-based employers and pro-life advocacy organizations in the District of Columbia from making employment decisions consistent with "their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about the sanctity of human life."

Signatories to the letter included the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In total, 14 religious and pro-life organizations signed the Feb. 5 letter.

The groups also expressed concern about the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The letter states the law violates the First Amendment and RFRA because it "requires religiously affiliated educational institutions to endorse, sponsor, and provide school resources to persons or groups that oppose the institutions' religious teachings regarding human sexuality."

Lankford's support of the groups comes as no suprise to some. In mid-January,  the Congressional Prayer Caucus', co-chair and founding member, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., touted Lankford's "stuanch commitment to protecting the constitutional right of religious freedom," and his willingness to fight "for the ability of all Americans to freely exercise and live by their religious beliefs." 

Before joining congress in 2010 Lankford spent more than a decade working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as the program director of Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center.