Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Should Religious Groups Be Allowed To Discriminate?

I often complain about the undue deference and respect given to religion, particularly Christianity in America.  Yes, some religious organizations provide charitable works, but overall, the hallmarks of religion are division, discrimination and outright hatred.  Nowhere is this better seen than among supposed religious organizations the claim to support "family values."  Check out their websites.  The veritably drip with hatred and discrimination.  Yet time and time again these organizations enjoy tax exempt status and are allowed to ignore non-discrimination laws.  A piece in Think Progress rightly asks why is this allowed.  Here are article highlights:

Nationwide employment protections for the LGBT community still do not exist; in more than half the country people can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity — and they have been. It’s an issue of paramount importance to the community itself, which is why passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) continues to be a top priority for the LGBT movment. ENDA, as written, is not perfect though, particularly because of its language creating exemptions for religious organizations.

During a “Situation Room” to discuss ENDA’s fate on Thursday, a heated debate took place about these broad religious exemptions and whether they’re necessary for the bill to pass. What’s most problematic is how much further they go than the protections found in Title VII, which includes protections based on race, gender, and national origin. In fact, the only exemptions Title VII offers is permission for religious organizations to discriminate “with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion,” allowing that belonging to a particular religion is a qualification for such jobs. Religious schools are similarly allowed “to hire and employ employees of a particular religion” if the religion directly manages the school or if its curriculum is “directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.”

Otherwise, the rest of Title VII applies. Thus, religious organizations are not exempt from the protections for race, sex, and national origin. However, under ENDA, as currently proposed, religious organizations would be free to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity all that they wish. Here’s what ENDA’s exemption looks like:
This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
So, any organization that was free to discriminate based on religion would be free to discriminate against LGBT people too, but that means that this exemption would actually be even broader. Title VII’s religious exemption limits discrimination to employees who “perform work connected with the carrying on” of its religious activities. What ENDA proposes, however, is that the LGBT protections would not apply to any organization who might even qualify for Title VII’s exemption — for any of its employees.

What’s telling though is that religious conservatives seek to justify anti-LGBT discrimination even without religious grounds to do so. For example, the Family Research Council has argued that even totally non-religious businesses should be able to fire transgender people just because they might make customers or other employees “uncomfortable.” Transgender people have already found relief under Title VII’s sex protections, but FRC’s point is still revealing. Rather than being about protecting “religious freedom,” the bill instead becomes a license to discriminate for all religious entities.

The broad exemption’s inclusion is a concession that discrimination against LGBT people is still justified and that the myths about LGBT identities that some religious people hold — such as that being gay is a choice and can be “fixed” by therapy — have merit.  . . . . ENDA as written would allow a chosen religious identity to trump an inherent sexual orientation or gender identity, guaranteeing in law that LGBT people are still second-class citizens.

My view?  First, end tax exempt status for ALL religious organizations be they churches or schools or other institutions.  Second, outside of actual church bodies and worship services, the non-discrimination laws should apply across the board to all religious organizations.  Religion has had its day and the fruits are hate, bigotry, wars and violence against others.  The world would be better without it.  

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