Two chairman from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have denounced an executive order from President Barack Obama, saying that the order “is unprecedented and should be opposed.”
President Obama’s 21 July executive order prevents federal government contractors from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This order offers no exemption for religious organizations, despite many religious groups asking Obama to include one in the order.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said the following in an official statement:
“In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
The bishops’ concern is that this order “ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term ‘sexual orientation.’” Because of this, employers could be turned away from receiving a federal contract if their religious beliefs object to any extra-marital sexual activity.
This order could prevent Christian organizations from applying for federal contracts to fund their charity and relief programs.
“If you hold that certain sexual practices are immoral, there is a good chance you probably will be disqualified from contracts,” said Melissa Swearingen, adviser and spokeswoman for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Equally problematic to this executive order is the idea that “gender identity” is nothing more than a social constraint that can be chosen regardless of the person’s biological gender. The practical results of this could be a biological man using the women’s restroom because he identifies himself as a woman. (For problems with this view of gender, see my article ‘Gender Benders: Is My Sexual Identity an Accident Just Waiting to Happen?‘ and ‘Unmaking a Difference: Is Gender Neutrality the New Stereotype?‘)
Swearingen, who said that the President’s lack of religious exemption was “very disappointing and hurtful,” also sees this as evidence of the Obama administration’s lack of regard for the concerns of his religious supporters.
“We definitely think the administration is on the wrong side of history. It seems they are intentionally discriminating against people of religious faith in the name of nondiscrimination.”
This Executive Order, which will go into effect early next year, comes after months of lobbying by homosexual groups.
President Obama called the order “extraordinary progress” for LGBT rights and hailed it as a bringer of fairness to America’s citizens. He told a White House gathering: “Thanks to your passion and advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government – the government of the people, by the people and for the people – will become just a little bit fairer.”
At a White House signing ceremony, Obama told advocates that he believed in the “irrefutable rightness of [their] cause” and declared that “America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.”
Vice President Joe Biden essentially said that gay rights override the beliefs of everyone else. In remarks to the Associated Press, Biden declared, “I don’t care what your culture is…Inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.”
Rev Barry Lynn, Executive Director for American United for Separation of Church and State, said that Obama made the “right call” by not allowing religious exemption to his Executive Order. Lynn said in a statement:
“Faith-based groups that tap the public purse should play by the same rules as everyone else and not expect special treatment…No forms of discrimination should be supported with the taxpayer dime, period.”
Obama might have published this order sooner, but he was waiting to see if Congress would pass the more comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for people that work for private businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies.
ENDA cleared the U. S. Senate in November, but could not get past the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. So Obama took matters into his own hands, saying that it was “time to address this injustice for every American.”
The ENDA legislation contained a religious exemption, but the USCCB declared it too limiting. However, a group of 14 faith leaders asked for a similar provision in the executive order. They said in a letter to Obama that an executive order without a religious exemption could “significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.”
Vice President and Senior Counsel of the Thomas More Society, Peter Breen, believes that Obama’s executive order should have been decided by Congress. While directly applying to federal employers and contractors, this order, according to Breen, could become a “slippery slope.”
“This does appear to be laying the foundation for further regulation on the issue of homosexual employees and on transgendered employees,” Breen said.
Eric Kniffin, an attorney with Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP who has litigated religious-liberty cases, believes that the recent Hobby Lobby case ruling instigated Obama’s not providing a religious exemption.
“There is a huge blow-back to Hobby Lobby, and I think this was one way of President Obama being able to show his supporters, ‘I’m going to deliver despite the court’s ruling,’” Kniffin said.
Kniffen also said that the Executive Order “continues the Obama administration’s efforts of narrowing religious liberty to internal ecclesial matters: freedom to worship, but not to practice and express ideas in the public square.”
“Basically, if you employ and you serve people of your own faith, then you can preserve your rights,” Kniffin asserted. “But when you engage in the public square, then you have to play by the same rules that govern everyone else. Wherever the administration thinks it can narrow religious liberty, it does so. Obviously, this is a First Amendment right, and people are accustomed to this right.”
Obama’s Executive Order adds to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 directive that prohibits employers and contractors from discriminating based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” In 2002, George W. Bush made the amendment that allowed religious employers to favor members of their own religion for employment, which Obama’s order retained.
24,000 companies with 28 million workers, or one-fifth of the U.S. workforce, will be affected by this order, despite many federal contractors already having provisions that prohibit anti-gay discrimination.
Approximately 14 million workers will now get protection from employers who currently do not have nondiscrimination policies, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School.
The fundamental issue in this case is that the Obama administration is equating race, something a person cannot change, to sexual lifestyle choices.
It would appear that the Obama administration wants to tell America’s Christian citizens who they are allowed to hire and how they must run their business. Americans who want to live our lives according to Biblical beliefs now have one more obstacle put in their way.
Find out how to join Christian Voice and stand up for the King of kings (clicking on the link below does not commit you to join)
Please note that persons wishing to comment on this story must enter a valid email address. Comments from persons leaving fictitious email addresses will be trashed.