Did ENDA’s Broad Religious Exemption Just Get Broader?

Written by scott on November 6th, 2013

CongressSome LGBT rights groups were already worried about the overly broad religious exemption language in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

With two supportive republicans not available for the vote on Monday, two other Republicans came on board, but apparently their price was even broader exemptions.

Melanie Nathan at O-blog-dee-o-blog-da reports:

The price for Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) was an amendment to ensure that discriminating religious entities which exercise the exemption would not be unduly burdened or penalized by Federal, State or local governments:

“A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”

The New York Times also rips the religious exemptions in the bill:

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, however, has a significant flaw — a terribly broad religious exemption. The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities, and would allow those institutions to discriminate against people in jobs with no religious function, like billing clerks, cafeteria workers and medical personnel. The exemption — which was inserted to appease some opponents who say the act threatens religious freedom — is a departure from the approach of earlier civil rights laws. And though the law would protect millions of workers from bias, the exemption would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end. Any attempt to further enlarge the exemption should be rejected.

Despite these unprecedented religious protections, Catholics are still trying to kill the bill.

Think Progress reports:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, asserting that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is essential to Catholics’ religious liberty. In a letter to Senators, the Bishops claimed to oppose discrimination, but then explained why they cannot support ENDA. Here are the five reasons they cite:

There Is No Exemption For “Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications”: With the exception of race, other protected classes like sex, religion, and national origin allow for discrimination in the case of “bona fide occupational qualifications” (BFOO), essentially leaving room for jobs in which a particular identity is necessary to perform the job. The Bishops argue that this exemption must be extended to sexual orientation, asserting that there are cases “where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclinations.” In other words, the Church should be free to discriminate against employees based on their private sexual behavior because some jobs require heterosexuality. They cite no such examples.

Think Progress also has a nice piece on the history of conservatives’ efforts to protect religious discrimination:

Here’s a look back at how ENDA’s religious exemption was first introduced, how it’s expanded, and how some lawmakers may push to extend it even further.

Religious Exemptions In The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) As ThinkProgress previously explained, ENDA’s current religious exemption refers back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of that law originally prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII contains only one religious exemption, which applies to any “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society.” Such groups are allowed to make employment decisions on the basis of an individual’s particular religion. The same protection is extended to any “school, college, university, or other educational institution” if the curriculum is “directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.”

So do you think this bill should pass with its current religious protections, or not?

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1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Lucinda says:

    It saddens me to my very soul that religious organizations want to be the one and only group allowed the right to discriminate. The article on Think Progress was very interesting. I think if a religious group want to only hire folks of their religion, they should be able to do so…and that’s as far as it should go.

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