Julian Bond gives powerful statement opposing ENDA’s religious exemptions

“Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.”

By Cathy Kristofferson, June 14, 2013

AP Photo
AP Photo

Back in April when the 2013 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced into Congress we posted here and here on OBLOGDEE about the unacceptable religious exemptions contained in the bill.  At that time multiple legal entities, including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center, released a statement that they stood “united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption” of the bill and noted that “the key religious exemption in new legislation banning anti-LGBT job discrimination “undermines the core goal” of the bill and should be removed.”  Now, Julian Bond has released a powerful statement  decrying those same religious exemptions.

In an op-ed for Politico, the well known civil rights leader and former Chairman of the NAACP, expressed that as LGBT Americans gain greater equality under the law he is “hearing similar objections to the ones I heard in response to the civil rights gains of African-Americans in the 1960s. We hear people asking for exemptions from laws — laws that prohibit discrimination — on the ground that complying would violate their religious beliefs.

Speaking directly about ENDA he comments:

“ENDA follows in the mold of life-changing civil rights laws that, for decades, have prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age and disability. However, there are some who feel that ENDA must allow religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond churches, synagogues and mosques — to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people.

We haven’t accepted this in the past, and we must not today.”

He went on to state:

“Indeed, during consideration of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 (and again in 1972), there were attempts to provide religious organizations with a blank check to engage in discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and national origin — like the one now proposed for ENDA — and both times we said no to those efforts. We weren’t willing to compromise on equality. We weren’t willing to say that African-Americans were only mostly equal. Today’s struggles are similar in that we shouldn’t accept only partial equality for LGBT people.

Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values.

It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.”

We have not heard about how the blanket religious exemptions proposed in the Bill may be impacted during the mark up process as ENDA makes its way through the House and Senate.  As they stand now, the religious exemptions should be considered unacceptable as Julian Bond so eloquently states.  No other group is currently allowed supremacy over another in our employment protection laws.  And moving forward, that should remain the case.

Read Julian Bond’s full op-ed here.

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