The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” One of the most important reasons that Europeans emigrated to the shores of North America was to pursue religious freedom, the most prominent issue addressed in our constitution’s first amendment.
There were two legal cases in the 1960’s, decided in favor of the government that precipitated new concerns about religious freedom in the U.S. In one of these cases, Lying vs. the Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, members of four Native American tribes sued to prevent a road from being built through their sacred lands. They lost in court, but this case provided some of the impetus for the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993. Unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate, this act insures that our religious freedoms are protected and holds the government responsible for doing so. Although Native American religions were a particular focus, the law applies to all religions.
How will waiving the RFRA impact local communities in proximity to the proposed border wall? Take a look at the La Lomita Chapel in Mission, Texas, which sits south of the proposed wall. Construction of the wall will permanently prevent access to this chapel. Father Ray Snipes, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mission, Texas, says that the La Lomita Chapel is “our mother church,” and he and his congregation are distraught that the free exercise of their religious beliefs may soon be undercut. The same thing could happen in other border towns, such as Douglas, Nogales, Lukeville, and Yuma. Waiving the RFRA allows religious practitioners to be permanently separated from their places of worship, and government projects to be constructed on lands sacred to Native Americans, without review or consideration of the people’s right to the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Click here for a list of all 48 federal laws waived to expedite construction of a border wall.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) and let them know that you oppose waiving The Religious Freedom Restoration Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.