The White House is signaling that Bush will veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would add sexual orientation to the already existing Federal anti-discrimination laws. The religious right has been in a full court press of lies and distortions to stop this bill and now the White House is joining the chorus of bullshit. Their line is that it violates RFRA:
“H.R. 3685 is inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion as codified by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Act prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion except for compelling reasons, and then only in the least restrictive manner possible.”
But this is nonsense. RFRA allows for exemptions to generally applicable laws – including this one – and explicitly leaves it up to the courts to apply the criteria in the law and determine whether an exemption must be granted. That would also be the case here. RFRA was not designed to stop Congress from passing generally applicable laws, only to allow for exemptions if the law places an undue burden on religious freedom without achieving a compelling state interest. And in fact, this law explicitly provides exemptions for churches and religious institutions already. Not good enough, says the White House policy statement on the bill:
“H.R. 3685 does not meet this standard. For instance, schools that are owned by or directed toward a particular religion are exempted by the bill; but those that emphasize religious principles broadly will find their religious liberties burdened by H.R. 3685,” the White House said.
They’re leaving out just one inconvenient fact: that’s already the case. Remember, all this bill does is add sexual orientation to an already existing list of reasons for which one cannot discriminate in matters of employment. Religion is already on that list. As I pointed out in a previous post, if you compare the exemption language in this bill to the exemption language already applied in the law, if anything it provides a broader exemption than current law.
And of course, they have to repeat the religious right’s lies about it as well:
As WND reported earlier, proposals such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would give special privileges to “gay” and “transgendered” individuals.
“If passed, the bill would grant special employment rights and protected minority status to individuals who define themselves based upon chosen sexual behaviors,” said Matt Barber, a policy analyst with Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s group.
There’s that word again. It would provide special privileges and special employment rights. Never mind that Christians already have that exact same “protected minority status” for those who define themselves based upon chosen religious beliefs. We already have it, but if you get it, that would be “special.” What would really be “special” is if the religious right would stop lying through their teeth about this bill.