A Chilling New Front In The War On Religious Liberty

The current form of ENDA provides an exemption for religious employers; some want to remove this exemption

What does this mean? It means that these Leftist groups are pursuing a zero-sum strategy against religious groups and individuals. They have declared an all-out culture war and will offer no quarter to sincere religious dissenters. They are ready to use the coercive power of the state to trample the religious consciences of their countrymen. This is radical and chilling.

 

The ACLU and other groups supporting gay rights have announced that they are withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). ENDA is a controversial measure because the bill would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual identity.

Why would the ACLU and gay rights groups remove their support for such a measure? Because the current form of the bill provides an exemption for religious employers. The ACLU et al. have decided that the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision gives too much ground to religious liberty. To curtail that trend, these groups will not support the bill as long as it offers broad exemptions to religious employers.

What does that mean? Until the Hobby Lobby decision, these groups were fine with religious exemptions. In fact, ENDA’s exemptions are based in part on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But now, that has changed. Christian Colleges, charities, hospitals beware. It does not matter if your organization has a religious mission. The Left is now declaring that you must not discriminate against employees that violate the religious principles of your organization.

Here’s an example of how this would work. Last year, Azusa Pacific University (a Christian school) asked a female theology professor to leave after she began to assume a transgender identity (read about it here). Gender identity is protected under ENDA. If ENDA were the law of the land with no religious exemptions, then it would have been illegal for this Christian school to dismiss this professor. Under ENDA, Azusa would have been in violation of federal law if they were to follow Christianity’s teaching about gender.

ENDA is problematic even with the current religious exemptions, and that is why the House of Representatives has not taken up the version of ENDA passed by the Senate last year. That being said, the ACLU et al. are objecting even to the modest religious exemptions contained in the current version.

What does this mean? It means that these Leftist groups are pursuing a zero-sum strategy against religious groups and individuals. They have declared an all-out culture war and will offer no quarter to sincere religious dissenters. They are ready to use the coercive power of the state to trample the religious consciences of their countrymen. This is radical and chilling. Let’s hope and pray this intolerant strategy does not become the new orthodoxy among the American Left. It is toxic.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture. This article is used with his permission.