Religious Exemption in Employment Non-Discrimination Act 'Terribly Broad,' Denounces NYT Editorial

The New York Times in an editorial denounced the religious exemption clause found in the U.S. Senate bill that bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the editorial, the newspaper denounced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act's exemption for religious employers as "terribly broad."

"The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities," wrote the NYT editors.

"And though the law would protect millions of workers from bias, the exemption would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end. Any attempt to further enlarge the exemption should be rejected."

Ross Murray, director of News at the pro-ENDA organization GLAAD, told The Christian Post that he believed religious organizations would eventually conclude on their own that non-discrimination against sexual minorities was the best way to operate rather than diminishing ENDA's current exemption.

Murray drew upon the example of Sunrise Children's Services, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, whose president recently announced that the group may begin to allow for hiring openly gay individuals.

"As we've recently seen with KY Baptist Charities, many of these institutions are learning that employment non-discrimination is the best way to run an organization," said Murray.

"They also know that their mission and mandate is to provide a service to people. Religious organizations like universities and hospitals know that the best employees include those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender."

While The New York Times may feel that the religious exemption is too broad, other entities feel ENDA does not sufficiently protect religious groups from legal harassment.

Emily Hardman, spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, provided The Christian Post with a statement regarding what her organization believed about the religious exemption.

"The Becket Fund is concerned about any law that does not provide robust religious liberty protections where they are warranted," reads the official statement.

"The limited exemptions for certain religious organizations that we have seen in the ENDA draft under consideration are manifestly inadequate."

Known as Senate Bill 815, the 2013 version of ENDA was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon in April and has 56 cosponsors. On Monday, the Senate voted 61 to 30 to bring ENDA to the floor for a vote.

"ENDA passed an important procedural vote with bipartisan support, and is currently awaiting final vote in the Senate, which we will hope will come today," said Murray of GLAAD to CP.

"Then it will be sent to the House, where it already has strong bipartisan support. We hope that Speaker Boehner will show leadership and allow this bill to be passed. It is good for business and good for the American people."

Despite the optimism expressed by Murray, at present House Speaker John Boehner is on record being opposed to ENDA, believing it will lead to much legal troubles for businesses.

"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," wrote Michael Steel, spokesman for Boehner, to Politico.

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