The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.
WASHINGTON–The bishop-Chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.
Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.
Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.
In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.
More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.
The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.
In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation.
Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.
Commentary from Robert P. George, Vice Chairman at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on President Obama’s executive order
I have, up till now, avoided the “war on this,” “war on that,” rhetoric. But now there is no avoiding it. Today Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the situation in a statement responding to the executive order the President issued today. There is no way for religious people to defend themselves against being reduced to the status of second-class citizens except by electing to office, first in 2014 and then in 2016, men and women who will repeal this executive order and other governmental acts that undermine their religious freedom and rights of conscience.
But that is only part of the picture. The reason that Catholics and other people of faith seek government contracts is to carry out their mission of serving people in need, orphans, the poor, refugees and the dispossessed, persons suffering from afflictions and addictions. It is the people who are served who are secondary victims of this war on conscience when faith-based providers are forced out – as Catholic Charities was forced out of providing adoption services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. We must defeat the enemies of conscience – at the ballot box – not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own.
Commentary from Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Someone on Ryan Anderson’s FB page posted after a comment I made the following: “Please provide one good reason why a federal contractor shouldn’t be protected from losing his or her job solely due to their sexual orientation? These are federal jobs and the constitution makes the church and the state separate.” My response, not stinting myself to just one good reason:
(1) There is no widespread discrimination of homosexual persons and on the whole “gay households” fare better economically than heterosexual ones.
(2) Homosexual acts, like incestuous and polyamorous acts, are immoral (indeed, adult-consensual homosexual acts are analogous to adult-consensual incestuous or polyamorous acts). This doesn’t even require a religious rationale. It can be reached by a reasonable natural law position and is confirmed by disproportionately high rates of measurable harm that attend homosexual unions (owing to the absence of a true sexual complement). Immoral acts are not deserving of special protection.
(3) It is absurd to contend that the Constitution preserves some hidden right to treating homosexual unions as the moral and civil equivalent of a male-female bond (as any historical reading of the document for the past two centuries would show). An amendment to the Constitution would be required to establish what you are proposing rather than imaginative judicial activism. Equality under the law doesn’t mandate elimination of the embodied prerequisites for the institution of marriage based on male-female complementarity.
(4) Obama’s “executive order” not only mandates “non-discrimination”; it also mandates “affirmation action programs” for persons homosexually active and transgendered. Not only are we required to discount immoral acts, we are required to make special efforts at recruiting and promoting people who act immorally.
(5) Obama’s EO even requires Christian associations that receive federal money to abandon their religious values (which include a strong male-female requirement for valid sexual unions), thereby trampling on religious liberties. In short, Christian organizations must cease to be Christian if they are to receive the same benefits from their own tax dollars that other organizations receive. Obama’s actions treat Christians as second-class citizens, the moral equivalent of racists, who can only participate equally in the civil sphere when they agree to wound their own consciences.
(6) A so-called “employment non-discrimination act” with regard to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” “ends up” discriminating against Christians in the workplace, subjecting them to loss of employment if they express their views, sometimes even if those views are expressed outside the workplace, while those who promote a homosexualist and transgendered ideology can say whatever they want in foisting their views on fellow employees.