Religious-Right Groups Demand Freedom to Discriminate

by Dan Quinn

Religious-right groups are, predictably, spitting venom over President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees of the federal government and government contractors. The executive order, which the president announced on Monday, does not include an exemption allowing employers to discriminate for religious reasons.

The executive order did keep a provision from a 2002 executive order signed by President George W. Bush that allows religiously affiliated contractors to continue to give preference to workers of a certain religion. But religious-right groups also want employers to be able to fire or refuse to hire LGBT people and claim religious beliefs as the reason. (What about employers who have religious objections to women who work outside the home? Or white supremacists who base their hatred of racial minorities and Jews at least partly on their religious beliefs about what the Bible teaches?)

The executive order does not bar anti-LGBT discrimination by all employers — just by the government and contractors who do business with the government. A broader discrimination ban would require action by Congress. A weak anti-discrimination bill, the Employment Nondiscrimation Act (ENDA), has passed the Senate, but House Republicans have refused to take up the measure. A growing number of gay rights and civil liberties groups oppose the Senate version of ENDA anyway because it includes a religious exemption allowing discrimination against LGBT people.

Religious-right groups denounced the lack of a religious exemption in President Obama’s executive order.

The fanatics at Texas Values, the Austin lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute and one of the most viciously anti-gay groups in the Lone Star State, revealed — as usual — their obsession with sex. The group’s president, Jonathan Saenz, charged that President Obama was “placing sexual behavior ahead of the common good.” He even suggested the executive order is President Obama’s retribution against Christians after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the federal mandate that employee health insurance plans include coverage for birth control:

“President Obama’s executive order allows sexual behavior to trump Americans’ religious freedom rights. People of faith should not be punished simply because of the religious freedom ruling in the Hobby Lobby case against Obamacare.”

The American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an anti-LGBT hate group, sent out an email this morning charging that the executive order “takes away religious freedoms from Christians”:

Obama’s love affair with homosexuality will impact some 24,000 companies with 28 million workers, or one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. More alarming, his order discriminates against Christians.

The AFA email also claims the executive order is unconstitutional, ignoring the nation’s long history of such orders. President Truman, for example, ended racial segregation in the U.S. military through Executive Order 9981. But groups like AFA and Texas Values don’t let facts get in the way of promoting hate and discrimination.

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