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Christian Right Loves Labor's 'License to Discriminate' Rule

Mat Staver

Leaders of the Christian right are loving the Department of Labor’s announcement that it wants to let companies with government contracts discriminate against those who offend a contractor’s religious beliefs.

The DOL’s proposed rule, announced Wednesday, met with outrage from LGBTQ and other civil rights groups, which say it would allow even for-profit companies to claim a religious basis for discriminating against LGBTQ people, single parents, members of minority faiths, and others. But Liberty Counsel and the Family Research Council are thrilled.

“I commend the Trump administration and the Department of Labor for not discriminating against religious employers and organizations that can provide the same high-quality services as allowed by other federal contractors,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a press release. “The religious freedom of individuals and organizations is protected under federal law and the Constitution. It is past time to end discrimination against churches and Christian viewpoints.”

The move “is in keeping with our nation’s history of respect for moral and religious beliefs,” added Mary Beth Waddell, senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council. The group “applauds the Department for taking steps to ensure that religious employers are free to operate according to their religious beliefs without fear of government punishment,” she said.

The rule, which is subject to public comment before being finalized, would undermine President Barack Obama’s executive order declaring that companies and nonprofits with federal government contracts must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Obama order expanded on nondiscrimination rules for contractors that covered race, gender, religion, and other factors, and maintained a religious exemption OK’d by George W. Bush that said faith-based organizations could favor members of their faith in hiring.

But the new rule would expand the exemption greatly, so that even for-profit companies not affiliated with a religious group could claim a religious basis for discriminating against LGBTQ employees and others, activists told The Advocate this week.

It is an “outrageous action taken by the Trump-Pence administration to undermine the rights of American workers,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. Civil rights groups vowed to speak out against the rule during the public comment period and take the matter to court if necessary.

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