President Obama, resisting calls from several prominent faith leaders, will not include a new exemption for religiously affiliated government contractors when he issues an executive order Monday barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House said Friday.
Could this have an effect on government contractors which are religious based? Will they be forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs? Or can they simply quit being a government contractor? This issue worries me because it seems like it could potentially be a violation of religious freedom but I am not clear on that.
President Obama, resisting calls from several prominent faith leaders, will not include a new exemption for religiously affiliated government contractors when he issues an executive order Monday barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House said Friday. (emphasis added)
There was already a religious exemption in place, from 2002, the time of President Bush II:
To the relief of the LGBT community, there is no sweeping religious exemption in the executive order. Obama is simply adding the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing executive order that protects employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. President George W. Bush amended that executive order in 2002 to allow religiously affiliated federal contractors to prioritize hiring employees of their particular religion, however, and Obama is keeping that language intact.
Existing religious protections remain. I am not aware that it is against Christianity to refuse to employ sinners. If that were the case, then many Christian businesses would find it very difficult to get enough staff.
According to the Reuter’s artcle, the EO adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list that has a very narrow exemption:
Religious organization would be barred from making hiring decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but exceptions would be allowed for ministers, and groups would be allowed to favor individuals of a particular religion.
By this description, “existing religious protections” do remain but are greatly narrowed and religious organizations will be restricted.
Churches and ministers are protected but schools, hospitals are not. The most impacted will likely be social service arms of religious organizations such as missionary religious orders or organizations such as Catholic Social Services. They are not included in the protection.
As I read it, there were already limits on discrimination: race, sex etc. together with a limited religious exception. The religious exception has been retained unchanged, but new groups: LGBT have now been given the same protection as already existed for race and sex.
I am unaware of any requirement that Christians must not employ LGBT people and that they must apply for Federal contracts. Given that, then there is little impact on religious practice that I can see.
Who is considered a federal contractor for purposes of this EO? In the past, with regard to race, for example, this has been so broadly applied as to include almost everyone. Example: I worked at a small parish elementary school. We were considered a “contractor” because we got less than $1000 a year in a technology grant. Other federal contracts involve no actual “application” on the part of the organization at all. Would this school now not be able to exclude from employment someone who claimed to be married to someone of the same sex? Or to allow a man who felt he was really a woman to be included as one of the female chaperons on a class trip?
Race and gender discrimination occurs based on a person’s inherent characteristics while sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by faith based organizations occurs almost always due to behavior and activity. It’s a can of worms to say that a religious based organization could still enforce behavior standards (as a Christian organization would be compelled to do) but still be forced to comply with this identity based discrimination law.