Have you seen this? Obama is preparing an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity. Rick Warren and other evangelical pastors have signed a letter asking Obama to offer a wide religious exemption in his executive order.
We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.
Exactly how would extending employment protection to LGBTQ individuals “come at the expense” of faith communities that run charity organizations that receive federal funding? Oh right. Because it is those faith communities (among others) that LGBTQ individuals need protection from in the first place.
I mean, let me apply this to efforts to end segregation:
We are asking that an extension of protection for negros not come at the expense of communities with a rich cultural identity and heritage.
Or let me apply this to bans on child labor a century ago:
We are asking that an extension of protection for children not come at the expense of corporations who must serve the interests of their shareholders.
I guess I’m just finding it highly ironic that Warren’s letter allows that this executive order would “extend protection” to a group of people . . . but leaves unstated that that “protection” is actually protection from him and his associates. I mean, good lord.
Oh! But Warren goes on!
Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.
Extending protection from employment discrimination to LGBTQ individuals will come at “an unreasonable cost” to the common good . . . how exactly? As for national unity, there were plenty of individuals in the 1850s arguing that abolitionism was a threat to national unity. Some things are worth shattering national unity over. And religious freedom? That would be the religious freedom to refuse to hire LGBTQ individuals.
Look, I understand that religious freedom extends even to those whose religions we consider abhorrent. I get that. But that doesn’t mean that religious organizations that refuse to employ individuals based on race, gender, or sexual orientation have a right to receive federal funding for the charity work they do. I mean, would we allow a white supremacist group running a soup kitchen access to federal funds?
But even if we decide that religious organizations that discriminate do have the right to federal funds, I am annoyed by how dishonest the statements in Warren’s letter feel. Warren is asking that the government’s efforts to protect a group from discrimination not get in the way of organizations like his discriminating against that group. And yet the way he words his letter, it sounds as though the very act of protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination harms religious communities and threatens national unity. Warren needs to own that it is religious communities’ insistence on discriminating against LGBTQ individuals that would cause the harm and threaten national unity.
My state entered onto the terrain of marriage equality relatively recently. For a few days, there were a flurry of marriages in an amazing atmosphere of excitement, and then came the stay. The following Sunday, my UU minister asked anyone who had married that week to stand up. I sat there with tears running down my cheeks as I looked st those standing. One couple held an infant—theirs. The minister, who traveled to another state to marry her own partner several years ago, then mentioned the couples who had planned to marry the following week, but had had the door shut on that by the stay and the appeal. “Their time will come,” she told us. I’ll always remember how I felt that day—it’s something I’ll tell my grandchildren about. And if this means this much to me, how much more must it mean to those whose rights hang in the balance?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that religious groups’ insistence on discriminating against LGBTQ individuals—in marriage and in employment, for starters—has real world consequences. This isn’t some sort of hypothetical. This is real people we’re talking about. Warren may speak glibly about ensuring that religious groups receiving federal contracts can discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, but this is nothing to be glib about.
For Rick Warren’s full letter, click here.