A Ban on the Faith-Based Workplace
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published November 10, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
Last week, the U.S. Senate matter-of-factly, with no serious vocal opposition except a last-ditch warning of the consequences by Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican, voted 64 to 32 to expand government and repeal the Bible.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act doesn’t say that directly, but its core meaning is that employers — and their employees — must accommodate every sexual expression under the sun or face federal prosecution and nuisance lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union.
House Speaker John A. Boehner said the bill would not reach the House floor. People who believe in the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, not to mention what’s left of property rights, had better hope he keeps his promise. This is about so much more than the threat of “frivolous lawsuits.”
Even if you’re not persuaded by moral arguments, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a massive expansion of federal power and a gift to trial attorneys, who are among the largest donors to the Democratic Party. Ten Republicans joined 54 Democrats in the final vote. They’re either spectacularly naive, or they think they’re smarter than God. You can love and cherish friends and family who are homosexual without bringing a government jackboot down on everyone else.
Far from ensuring equality, the bill is a radical departure from civil rights laws, whose protected classes stem from immutable characteristics with no moral content, such as skin color, place of birth or sex. The exception is religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
What makes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” different is that these categories are vague, not immutable, and the associated behaviors have moral implications. In fact, behavior defines the groups. Otherwise, unlike race or sex, no one would know.
By equating such behaviors with neutral, unchangeable characteristics such as ethnicity, the act says to religious employers: “You will abandon your faith-based morality and instead abet behavior that your faith and Scripture says is wrong and harmful.”
It’s a lot like the Obamacare mandate to religious health care institutions to provide abortions — or else.
If you want to know how laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act operate in real life, there are a growing number of cases.
In 2008, a judge in New Mexico affirmed a fine of $6,638 against a Christian couple in Albuquerque who run a photography business. Their crime? Declining to photograph a lesbian ceremony.
Earlier this year, a Gresham, Ore., Christian couple who ran a bakery were investigated for not baking a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. Harassed for months, they closed their business in September.
In California, businesses that decline to provide marital benefits to same-sex couples are denied state government contracts.
In Ohio, a black college administrator was fired in 2008 for writing an article on her own time that disagreed with the notion that race and sexual orientation are equivalent traits.
This is freedom?
Among the Republicans who voted for the bill were Sen. John McCain of Arizona and formerly conservative Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. There is nothing conservative about giving the federal government and leftist pressure groups another enormous club with which to beat America’s employers senseless.
Conservatives work to reduce government, not to expand its power. It’s no coincidence that homosexual activist groups were among the most aggressive supporters of Obamacare. The act and Obamacare are vast, new liberal government mandates.
The nation’s workplaces have already been subjected to de facto enforcement of quotas despite provisions prohibiting them. Employers are accused of “disparate impact” regardless of sincere efforts to hire more minorities or women.
Imagine “civil rights” lawyers under the Obama Justice Department invading workplaces to ensure that there are an acceptable number of men wearing dresses, along with homosexual-related hires, promotions and celebrations.
Advocates claim that it’s about “simple fairness.” It’s not. The law will criminalize dissent against any initiative by newly empowered “sexual minorities.” Don’t feel like making your employees celebrate “gay pride day” or attend “diversity” brainwashing? Welcome to court. Hope you can afford it.
The biggest mistake that liberty defenders could make is to buy into the “religious exemption” inserted by Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican. It’s a fig leaf, and a thin one at that.
Once the law is on the books, a liberal federal judge will void the exemption.
For a lesson in abusing federal law, consider that the Internal Revenue Service has throttled political speech in churches since the 1950s. Texas Democratic Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson inserted a provision in the tax code threatening the nonprofit status of religious institutions if leaders endorse candidates from the pulpit. Johnson did so to shut up overly critical preachers.
Churches in America are untaxed not because they do what Caesar tells them, but because, as Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Johnson gag order is unconstitutional, which is why the IRS has not dared to bring a case. Conservative churches, however, have been silenced, while many liberal churches ignore the law. They know that hustlers such as Al Sharpton will run to the media if the IRS gets too frisky.
Add this law to this mix, and we’re well on the way to a day when the feds are editing sermons and punishing churches that don’t have priestesses performing same-sex ceremonies.
Proponents insist that it will never come to that, but don’t believe them. Liberal groups are working to remove the Catholic Church’s tax exemption over its opposition to abortion, and they ran the church out of the adoption business in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
Imagine what they will do nationally if President Obama gets to sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.