Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have reintroduced legislation to clarify and strengthen religious liberty protections in federal law, by safeguarding individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.

The First Amendment Defense Act would prevent any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to an individual, association, or business based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For example, the bill would prohibit the IRS from stripping a church of its tax exemption for refusing to officiate same-sex weddings.

“Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” Labrador said. “America set the standard for upholding freedom of belief and worship in a diverse society. No American should ever doubt these protections enshrined in the First Amendment.

“Our bill ensures that the federal government does not penalize Americans for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions on traditional marriage. Our bill shields against federal intrusion without taking anything away from anyone. In a shifting landscape, it’s time that Congress proactively defend this sacred right.”

There are 18 cosponsors of the Senate bill, S. 1598,including Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho. Labrador’s House companion, H.R. 2802, has 57 cosponsors.

House Calls for Release of Pastor Abedini 

The House has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2012. Abedini is serving an eight-year prison term for intentionally undermining the national security of Iran by gathering with other Christians in private homes.

Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, is an original cosponsor of House Resolution 233, which passed on a 391-0 voteMonday evening. “I hope the government of Iran will heed of the message sent by the House and free Pastor Saeed and the other Americans,” Labrador said. “Until then, I believe all negotiations with Iran should end until these prisoners are freed.

“If the Iranian government is serious about its expressed desire to engage in constructive interaction with the world, it must free Pastor Saeed and the other captives. I urge President Obama to continue to advocate for the release of Pastor Saeed and take all necessary and appropriate steps to that end.”

House Resolution 233 states, “That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that Iran should release all detained United States citizens immediately and provide any information it possesses regarding any United States citizens that have disappeared within its borders.”