Catholic Conference Opposes Basic Employment Protections for LGBT People
May 29, 2010
The following is from HRC's Religion & Faith Program Director Harry Knox: Earlier this week, just days after terminating a decades-long membership in the respected civil rights coalition the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the U.S. Conference of [Roman] Catholic Bishops made public a letter to Capitol Hill opposing, for the first time, basic workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. In 2007, the last time Congress considered the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the Conference remained neutral on the bill as a whole, but sent a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee specifically praising the bill’s religious exemption as “an indispensable protection for the free exercise rights of religious organizations.” This week, they abandoned that position, characterizing the religious exemption as insufficient and arguing that the bill serves only to “legally affirm and specially protect” sexual conduct outside of marriage and threatens their traditional understanding of marriage. The only thing that has changed between 2007 and this week is the hardening of the bishops’ hearts against our community. To suggest that ENDA's goal is simply to "legally affirm and specially protect" sexual conduct is to callously deny the humanity of LGBT people and to reduce our struggle for equal treatment to the basest of terms. God cares about those who are hurting, like those lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who lose their jobs, are passed over for promotions or aren’t even given an interview simply because of who they are. The bishops’ tortured justification for their support for discrimination is the worst sort of hierarchical doublespeak. In essence, they say they are the keepers of all truth and they demand that the government give preference to their privilege to discriminate over others' freedom to work. The religious exemption in ENDA, which is taken from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, seems to have been a sufficient protection for religious employers in the mind of the Catholic Conference for the last four decades. It is stated in the clearest language in the law. Voters and members of Congress understand that clear language. What they don't understand is the Roman Catholic bishops' dissembling about how the exemption that has allowed them to continue to discriminate against women and divorced people for years somehow won't be powerful enough to allow them to keep discriminating against LGBT people. The bishops care only about preserving their privilege to discriminate and dictating to the rest of us. Jesus always stands on the side of those treated unjustly. It is clear to all with ears to hear that the Catholic bishops are not standing with Jesus and those He loves.
July 21, 2014