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USCCB urges Senate to oppose ENDA, says bill threatens religious liberty

November 05, 2013

In a joint letter, three committee chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called upon US senators to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA).

The bill, which is expected to pass the Senate, would ban workplace discrimination against homosexuals and transgendered persons.

“The Conference stands ready to work with leaders and all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

The bishops oppose ENDA because it “lacks a BFOQ [bona fide occupational qualification] exemption,” “lacks a status/conduct distinction,” “supports marriage redefinition,” “rejects the biological basis of gender,” and “threatens religious liberty.”

The bishops explained:

ENDA does not include an exemption for a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ), for those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclinations. This omission also elevates “sexual orientation” discrimination within Title VII to the same and, until now unique, level as race discrimination (which allows no BFOQ), and above religion, sex, and national origin discrimination (which do).

ENDA’s vague definition of “sexual orientation” would encompass sexual conduct outside of marriage, thus legally affirming and specially protecting that conduct.

Based on experience in state courts, it is likely that ENDA would be invoked by federal courts to support the claim that, as a matter of federal constitutional right, marriage must be redefined to include two persons of the same sex.

ENDA’s definition of “gender identity” lends force of law to a tendency to view “gender” as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex. This provision also fails to account for the privacy interests of others, particularly in workplace contexts where they may reasonably expect only members of the same sex to be present.

ENDA could be used to punish as discrimination what many religions – including the Catholic religion – teach, particularly moral teaching about same-sex sexual conduct. Moreover, the bill’s religious freedom protection, which is derived from Title VII, covers only a subset of religious employers, and as a result of recent litigation, is uncertain in scope. Recent experience also shows that even exempted employers may face government retaliation for relying on such exemptions.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: FredC - Nov. 06, 2013 6:45 PM ET USA

    We need to hear strong, urgent words from the pulpit and in diocesan newspapers so the Catholic laity is activated.

  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 06, 2013 7:29 AM ET USA

    Once again, the USCCB amateurs enter the political fray in DC. ENDA is a proposed Democrat gift to trial lawyers (the vague language is never an accident) and the homosexual lobby. Now come the Class D bishops to a major league ball game where they will lose in the first inning. When will the bishops start to inspire the Catholic laity who have the skills to win and know how to play in the major leagues?

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Nov. 05, 2013 5:40 PM ET USA

    ENDA (very appropriate acronym) will get a warm reception among Democrats, the official American party of immorality, and at least a respectful hearing from the other party, the official party of "Me-too-but-a-little-less". It is impossible for a Catholic to feel any allegiance to these parties or to the government they plague. The 'American experiment' has effectively come to an end. Decent people should regard it with the same affection they once reserved for governments like that of the USSR.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 05, 2013 11:04 AM ET USA

    A swift, pointed, cogent, and concise response to another congressional outrage. The key words here are "unjust discrimination." Cardinal Ratzinger made that very clear in his instructions on the topic as prefect of the CDF. These bishops get it.