WASHINGTON – Prominent evangelical leaders assailed a bill that would give special rights to homosexuals in the workplace, calling it bad policy and denouncing attempts to tie it with the black civil rights movement.
"In recent years there has been a strange reversal of things," Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., founder and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, said Friday.
"[A]ggressive activists who are involved in gay rights have made an odd role reversal," he continued. "In the name of liberty this group has begun to infringe upon the liberty and rights of others."
Jackson was speaking in reference to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), HR 3685, which seeks to make it illegal for employers to make decisions on hiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee based on sexual orientation.
The bill, if passed, would add "sexual orientation" to a list of federally protected classes under a 1964 act that prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Jackson, who represents thousands of black ministers, said the black civil rights movement is being "hijacked" by gay activists who claim the gay employment issue is similar to the black civil rights issue.
"I find it is an insult for myself as an African American that you are granting through this law special protection for sexual orientation that might only be imagined," said the senior pastor of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in the Washington, D.C.-area.
ENDA seeks to add to the protected class "actual or perceived" sexual orientation, Jackson pointed out, while the other protected classes are "immutable" and "unchangeable" characteristics.
"Someone once said I was born black and I will probably stay black for awhile," said the black Christian leader, drawing laughter from the media.
In addition, ENDA infringes on religious liberty and puts the integrity of faith-based ministries in jeopardy.
Hope Christian Church, for example, runs a daycare and aftercare program that reaches some 300 children.
If ENDA passes, children in the ministry could be sent "unclear signals" with Jackson preaching against homosexuality while the children are sent a "radically different" message by a church daycare employee.
The evangelical leader is also against the legislation because it expands civil rights protection on the vague basis of perception. In other words, an employee can sue their employer based simply on "perceived" sexual orientation.
Adding to Jackson's comments, Colin A. Hanna, founder and president of the conservative grassroots organization Let Freedom Ring, pointed out that the current ENDA legislation includes some provision to exempt churches but no language for the exemption of parachurch organizations or pro-family movements.
An organization "whose entire focus" and "reason for being" is to promote a particular social view based on scripture would be forced to hire a person with a "diametrically opposing" view on the issue, Hanna contended.
"That is about as upside-down and about as perverted a reading as what the first amendment is about as I can imagine," he said.
Hanna contends he is not opposed to non-discrimination laws but rather opposed to "perverting" the language of discrimination to enable the further "political aims" of the homosexual agenda.
"That is where our objection is based," he said.
Others raised questions on how human resource managers would apply the bill in the real world. They emphasized that someone can easily be identified as black, female or of a particular religion, but there is no way to identify someone's sexual orientation besides a confession by the individual.
As a result, it would be difficult to distinguish if a person was fired because of their poor performance or for their sexual identity.
"It (ENDA) is not needed, all that is needed is men and women to decide who they are and go to work everyday and do their job," stated the Rev. Rick Scarborough who heads Vision America – a grassroots movement to restore Christian values in society.
The Baptist preacher said his organization is opposed to the bill morally, on biblical grounds, and because it is "insanity" and will "wreck the economy of this country."
Others who spoke in opposition to the legislation included former homosexual Randy Thomas, vice president of Exodus International – the world's largest Christian ministry promoting freedom from homosexuality.
"The liberal democrats, who support the advancement of the homosexual agenda, cannot agree on this," concluded Tony Perkins, president of the influential Washington-based Family Research Council. "Even they think this is a bridge too far, policy too radical and there is disagreement in the rank."
Perkins added, "I believe the vast majority of Americans would come to the realization that this will take us to a place that we do not want to go."
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on ENDA on Wednesday.
On the Web: www.traditionalvalues.org