U.S. Bishops Advocate for Bill to Legalize Anti-LGBT Discrimination

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent a supportive letter to the U.S. senator who introduced a “license to discriminate” bill, which would allow business and nonprofits to deny services to LGBT people.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Bishop James Conley, in their respective roles as chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious and Committee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, sent the letter to the bill’s sponsor, Utah Senator Mike Lee, in mid-March. Lee had introduced the latest version of the First Amendment Defense Act earlier in the month. The bishops said in their letter:

“As a non-discrimination act, FADA would provide significant protection for religious freedom at the federal level. It would be a modest and important measure protecting individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination. In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed.”

Lee’s 2018 version of the First Amendment Defense Act is more restrictive than a similar bill from 2015, which never moved out of committee.  The new bill still provides sweeping license to discriminate against LGBT people and other communities with which a business or organization might disagree over marriage and family issues. The Advocate explained:

“The bill would prevent alteration of federal tax treatment, denial of or reduction in grants or contracts, denial of access to federal property or institutions, and a host of other actions against individuals and entities that refuse service based on these views. The bill ‘reframes the original wording to exclude publicly traded for-profit companies, federal employees and contractors, and health care facilities from the list of protected entities,’ notes HuffPost, but does give its OK to discrimination by privately held for-profit companies. And the contractors’ exclusion extends only to ‘for-profit contractors acting within the scope of their contract,’ according to the bill itself, so apparently nonprofits could discriminate without penalty.”

The latest version does not specifically name LGBT people as objects of discrimination as it had in 2015, reported The Advocate. The American Civil Liberties Union noted the irony of this move.  The change, designed to improve the bill’s passage, allows for  more people to be discriminated against.

LGBT advocates sharply criticized Lee’s bill, saying it would allow for widespread discrimination, even against the most vulnerable communities. The Human Rights Campaign said that the language in the bill, it would allow federally-funded nonprofits to deny services to people in same-gender marriages who are experiencing homelessness or who are victims of domestic violence. Others, such a single parents or unmarried couples, could also be denied services for not conforming to a nonprofit’s definition of family.

Instead of acknowledging marriage equality as an established reality, U.S. bishops have moved to violate their own social justice teachings by actively seeking to discriminate against LGBT people and others with whom they disagree. It is especially sad that the bishops have so little concern for  society’s most vulnerable people who could be harmed by such a law. I cannot imagine how church teaching supports denying shelter to a victim of domestic violence because that person is in a legal marriage which the bishops do not support.

The bishops’ claim that the First Amendment Defense Act is a non-discrimination effort is disingenuous. The bill is precisely the opposite. Rather than fervently seeking to cause pain, the bishops should instead listen to the rest of the U.S. faithful who are widely supportive of protecting LGBT people and their families from discrimination.

Robert Shine,  New Ways Ministry, March 26, 2018

9 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Bottom line: these bishops are living in their own now-nearly-extinct prehistoric world. With rare exceptions, virtually no practicing Catholic under the age of 30 takes even remotely seriously anything that these guys declare to be “binding moral and ethical truth”. What will it take for them to get the message that they are making themselves utterly irrelevant to life in the modern world?

    Reply
  2. Cathy Pearce
    Cathy Pearce says:

    My heart has dropped! I am in disbelief that our US bishops have presented this INJUSTICE to our government leaders. Where is our Catholic Social Teaching? This is disgusting on so many levels!!

    Reply
  3. Kris
    Kris says:

    I don’t understand the US sometimes.

    In the UK, were any conference of bishops to act as these have done, it would be publicly, and almost universally, pilliored for blatant discrimination, and quite probably hauled before a court of law.

    The US bishops have far too much political influnce in what is meant to be a democratic country.

    It seems to me that the USCCB is, singlehandedly, destroying Catholicism in the States.

    Reply
  4. Lawrence
    Lawrence says:

    Did it ever occur to you that the Bishops are doing the right thing?

    It may not be the thing that we like, but it is the right thing. Learning humility is difficult.

    Reply
    • Judith Navetta
      Judith Navetta says:

      Learing humility? How does the actions of the Bishops teach humility? It certainly teaches discriminatio. What happened to the teachings of Jesus and the first and second Commandments? And what about their constitutional rights? I am so sad with what they have done. This latest action has publicly put our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in a perilous situation for discrimination and hate.

      Reply
    • John Hilgeman
      John Hilgeman says:

      Before I began coming to terms with being gay; and before I met other gay people and saw their health and beauty, accomplishments and committed relationships; and before I read books and articles about the psychology, sociology, theology, and history of gay people; and before I began realizing that I knew much more about the issues than the bishops and popes who were pontificating about those of us who are LGBTQ; and before I saw the long term and consistent actions that bishops were taking to support legal discrimination against us, I would probably have agreed with you.

      But when I began accepting who I am, and loving who I am, and realizing the beauty and gifts that being gay were to me and to others – opening my eyes to the understanding of other people who experienced discrimination, hatred, violence and oppression and giving me the ability to see things from the outside – I came to see clearly that these bishops were not only wrong, but their behavior was ungodly and immoral.

      Humility involves being down to earth and in touch with reality. It does not involve having self-hatred and a sense that we deserve to be treated as less than others just because people who claim authority deem that they alone have the right to restrict our God-given rights to equal treatment and justice.

      There is something seriously wrong with a church or religion whose leaders take it upon themselves to actively work toward the marginalization of certain members of society whom they consider outside the pale. This is not the mode of acting of Jesus who treated those marginalized by society with the love and respect they were being denied by those in power.

      Reply
  5. Catherine Bush
    Catherine Bush says:

    Bishops like these make it hard for this gay Catholic girl to get up and go to Mass on Sunday. Why are they deliberately trying to separate God from His children? So frustrating.

    Reply
  6. Peter Iveson
    Peter Iveson says:

    I’m glad I’m not a Roman Catholic. I Think the bill where religious people who are against The GLBTQ community will be allowed to Descriminate,against them because of their religous beliefs is unChristian, It seems to me that the Roman Catholic Church is really out of touch with an increasingly secular society where organized religion is declining,What ever happened to live and let live,

    Reply

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