My friend Denny Burk (who teaches at Boyce College in Louisville, KY) has hit on an aspect of the recent discussion of ENDA (the Employment Non-discrimination Act) that thoughtful Christians ought to ponder.
Here’s what Denny says: “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.”
Denny goes on to ask the question? “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.”
Then he draws a conclusion: “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.”
Now I know many folks of goodwill who will be uncomfortable with what they will consider to be the language and stance of culture war in Denny’s article (“The Left,” “Leftist groups a pursuing a zero-sum strategy,” “all-out culture war,” “no quarter to sincere religious dissenters,” etc). But let me encourage them not to be dismissive of what Denny has to say on that account. I think Denny is right, we have, just in this last year or so, seen a shift in this whole issue.
Many of our fellow citizens now see our appeals to “religious liberty” as a ruse to allow us to engage in an immoral discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and identity (hence the administrations of Vanderbilt and Bowdoin forced Christian groups to open up their leadership to non-Christians or lose campus privileges, because those groups included biblical sexual morality in their requirements for leadership). And thus many of our fellow citizens are increasingly prepared to argue that Christian institutions (and certainly Christian owned businesses) ought not to be allowed to require their employees to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Christian beliefs and biblical norms (at least in regard to biblical sexual ethics). To put it in Denny’s language, they are saying we must not discriminate against employees that violate the religious principles of our organizations (universities/colleges, charitable organizations, hospitals and perhaps eventually churches).
So, again, I think Denny has put his finger on a “downside” of the Hobby Lobby decision (in the form of an unintended consequence) about which we all should be aware, and give prayerful consideration as to how we ought to respond.
Denny’s full article can be read here: http://www.dennyburk.com/a-chilling-new-front-in-the-war-on-religious-liberty/