Will Obama Require Christian Groups With Gov't Grants to Hire LGBT?

U.S. President Barack Obama waves before he signs an Executive Order to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination while in the East Room at the White House in Washington, July 21, 2014. |

Is the Obama administration moving to require Christian nonprofits that receive government grants to follow LGBT non-discrimination rules in hiring?

A May 29 blog post by Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), claimed that an "unnamed source within the federal government" informed him that "the White House is quietly moving forward" with an LGBT non-discrimination policy for nonprofit organizations receiving government grants.

Since then, however, a White House official has assured another religious freedom organization that no decisions have been made about federal grantees.

The White House, Ruse wrote, "has recently directed federal agencies to include the 'sexual orientation and gender identity' clause in all grant agreements. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to make this change and is said to be weeks away from implementation.

"The source added that federal agencies are being pressured to make this change without a subsequent executive order and that the State Department legal office has advised the White House that this is not a legal matter but a matter of policy," he continued.

The potential policy change is similar to one for government contractors that Obama made last year. That executive order required contractors to not discriminate against LGBT individuals in hiring and firing practices. There was no blanket religious exemption but a religious hiring exemption remained in place, which left the actual implications for faith groups a bit murky.

There are not many faith-based government contractors, but there are a large number of faith-based organizations that receive government grants to provide important social services. So a policy affecting grantees would have more far-reaching consequences than a policy affecting contractors.

Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and senior director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, reached out to Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to find out if this was true.

In a Friday IRFA blog post, Carlson-Thies wrote that while C-Fam believes a policy for grantees has been made, "there is good reason to doubt that it has been or can be made."

If the Obama administration were "quietly" making this change, he explained, it would show up in grant announcements and application forms. Since IRFA advocates on behalf of faith-based groups, it would likely be one of the first to know about the change.

Second, unlike federal contractors, the hiring rules for grant recipients are set by Congress, not the president. So if Obama attempted to intrude upon congressional authority, there would likely be an executive/legislative power struggle.

Third, Rogers assured Carlson-Thies that "the White House has made no decision to extend the restrictions on contractors to grantees."

Ruse posted another blog post on Friday noting what Carlson-Thies found. He also noted that a World article quoted a National Security Council spokesperson saying that the Obama administration is not extending its LGBT hiring policy for federal contractors to federal grantees.

Carlson-Thies does acknowledge that he cannot verify whether a policy change is being made in secret. And he advises faith-based groups to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

"Faith-based organizations must take a deep and careful look at their operations and take deliberate action to ensure that there is a strong alignment between their religious beliefs, their operational policies, and their actual practices. Their religious identity ought to be clear to everyone, inside and outside the organization, and the religiously based rationale for their policies and practices ought to be evident to anyone who takes a look," he wrote.

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