Will Obama Executive Order Protecting LGBT People from Employment Discrimination Respect Religious Liberty?

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington June 13, 2014. Obama said on Friday he will take several days to review options for how the United States can help Iraq deal with a militant insurgency, saying any action would need significant involvement by Iraq itself. | (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Some Christian groups are worried that President Barack Obama's forthcoming executive order guaranteeing the protection of LGBT individuals from employment discrimination with businesses that have federal contracts may not have sufficient religious liberty protections.

While the order has not yet been written up, concerns have been leveled by various individuals that the order might not include a religious exemption and would force faith-based groups to engage in hiring practices that are in opposition to the teachings of their faith.

"The big question is: will the Executive Order drive out faith-based organizations out of federal contracting?" Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and president of Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, wrote in an email to supporters. "The federal government doesn't contract only for aircraft carriers, janitorial services, and IT expertise. It also contracts for research, consulting, and technical assistance, and, increasingly, for social services-particularly USAID and the Bureau of Prisons contract for social services."

In a statement released Tuesday, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said he believed the move will further threaten Christian businesses.

"If the proposed order is issued, a Christian who owns a business that contracts with the federal government will not be able to use homosexuality or transgender identity as factor in employment decisions, regardless of the business owner's faith convictions," stated Wildmon.

"Furthermore, religious organizations that contract with the government to provide social services such as adoption assistance, disaster relief, health care navigation, preschool education, drug rehabilitation and prison ministry, would be required to hire homosexuals against their convictions."

Wildmon also stated that the "existing Executive Order that governs employment nondiscrimination by federal contractors requires that the contractors maintain an Affirmative Action Program actively to recruit members of protected groups."

"If lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals are now considered a 'protected group,' then what's to stop the government from trying to force Christian businesses to actively recruit them as the price of contracting with the federal government?" said Wildmon.

The executive order is coming in part due to the failure of numerous attempts by LGBT groups to have the United States Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

For decades, ENDA has been introduced into Congress only to be voted down by either the Senate or House of Representatives.

The most recent ENDA bill was introduced in 2013 by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and included a religious exemption. Last fall the Senate voted 61 to 30 to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, a move seen as historic.

However Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio declared his intention to kill ENDA once it went to the lower house.

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

Advocates for federal antidiscrimination legislation akin to ENDA or the executive order include the LGBT group the Human Rights Campaign.

Fred Sainz, vice president of Communications and Marketing at HRC, told The Christian Post that he felt the proposed executive order "provides much needed protections."

"The proposed executive order provides much needed protections to American workers who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Sainz.

"The most American value of them all is to work and provide for your family and this executive order will provide protections to ensure that can happen."

Regarding concerns about religious exemptions, Sainz told CP that since there is no present draft of the executive order, "the question of religious protections is premature."

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