Obama’s Executive Order Barring Federal Contractors from LGBT Discrimination Will Not Include Religious Exemption

Despite calls from people like Pastor Rick Warren (below) to allow religious groups receiving federal contracts to discriminate against LGBT Americans, President Obama announced last night that his forthcoming executive order would not include any religious exemptions.

Religious groups had sought the exemption to ensure that they would not lose federal money or contracts if they could not meet the new guidelines because of their beliefs.

Galen Carey, the vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, said he expected the president’s executive order would lead to a lengthy and expensive legal fight.

“It would be better if the president could provide leadership that promotes tolerance all the way around,” Mr. Carey said, “rather than use the force of the state.”

There’s some evangelical logic for you: Why can’t the President tolerate our intolerance?

Obama absolutely did the right thing. Church groups are free to discriminate however they’d like, but they shouldn’t be allowed to do it using taxpayer money. In fact, more than 100 religious and secular groups agreed, urging Obama in a letter not to include the exemption.

Beyond the moral issue here, what he did was also politically savvy, giving his progressive base some news to get excited about.

It wasn’t completely ideal: An existing executive order made by President George W. Bush says that religious groups receiving federal contracts can still favor people of their own faith when hiring. That order is still in effect now, possibly providing employers with a loophole that could let them get away with not hiring LGBT people. (It’s not like a lot of gays and lesbians are out and proud evangelicals, after all.) But you have to figure any employers would be more likely to hire people they already share a bond with.

Conservative leaders will inevitably cry “religious discrimination,” but this is precisely the opposite. Religious groups will continue to get federal contracts. They just have to figure out what’s more important to them: Government funding… or their irrational focus on homosexuality over every other sin. (It’s not like they were fighting to discriminate against adulterers or divorced people.)

If they really care most about helping those who are less fortunate, working alongside a gay person shouldn’t affect what they do. But if Rick Warren wants to make that argument, he can go right ahead. I’m sure young Christians can’t wait to hear another reason to walk away from the church for good.

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