Late last week, the U.S. Department of Labor under our racist, homophobic President Donald Trump issued a directive saying that faith-based organizations working with the U.S. government don’t have to follow federal anti-discrimination requirements. That is, they’re allowed to discriminate against people (including LGBTQ people) because Jesus. And the kicker is the Labor Department used language from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Masterpiece Cakeshop decision to justify its directive, even though that decision didn’t allow discrimination based on religious beliefs, not at all.
Before we continue, you should realize that federal contractors make up 20% of the entire U.S. workforce, so this directive affects approximately 31.2 million people.
The directive, issued and signed last Friday by Craig E. Leen, Acting Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), acknowledges that federal laws “prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran.” In particular the laws mentioned in the memo deal with the treatment of employees.
But, the directive says “recent court decisions have addressed the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afforded religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the United States Constitution and federal law.”
It cites the U.S. Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling as one of these decisions, but the only thing that case decided was that the government can’t show hostility toward a person’s religious beliefs in the form of disparaging comments when deciding whether or not a person violated non-discrimination ordinances.
In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the larger issue of whether religious-based organizations are exempt from anti-discrimination laws “must await further elaboration.”
The directive later states any OFCCP employee reviewing federal contracts “cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices,” adding that they have to “proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of … religious beliefs.”
So if a religious organization violates federal law by discriminating against LGBTQ people on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs, then the federal Labor Department whose job it is to prevent discrimination is being told to look the other way based on a deliberate misinterpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.