By Rebecca Juro
Originally published on Advocate.com July 22 2014 3:40 PM ET
The bashing of President Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors has begun.
The president and his administration are “hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda,” writes Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes in an op-ed published on FoxNews.com Monday, the day Obama signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by companies doing more than $10,000 worth of business a year with the federal government.
Starnes particularly objects to the lack of a broad religious exemption similar to that in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, seeing this as an attack on the rights of Christians.
Starnes quotes well-known anti-LGBT activist Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, an organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to back up his specious arguments. Sprigg has argued in the past that homosexuality should be criminalized and gay Americans should be deported (to where exactly, one is forced to wonder).
“If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith — then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith,” Sprigg argues. “This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior.”
While churches are already exempt from antidiscrimination laws in hiring for ministerial positions, LGBT organizations have pointed out that the broad exemptions desired by some on the right would allow religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, charities, and more to discriminate in jobs that are not religious in nature — say, refusing to hire a gay groundskeeper or cafeteria employee.
Also, leaving aside the well-demonstrated reality that a solid majority of American Christians support LGBT equality, Starnes seems not to understand that freedom of religion must, by definition, include freedom from religion. That is, if Americans have the constitutional right to believe as they wish free of oppression, then that freedom must also extend to people of all faiths and to those who do not to subscribe to any religion.