“Ten Republicans joined with all Democrats in a 64-32 vote to pass the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA. Ten Republicans had voted to advance the measure in an earlier procedural vote,” said Michael A. Memoli. The Senate gave it the thumbs up, now it goes to the House of Representatives.
Reporting for the L.A. Times on Thursday, November 7, 2013 in his article, “Senate passes workplace protection for gay, transgender Americans,” Memoli went to say,
“On Wednesday, senators approved an amendment offered by Republicans to strengthen an exception provided in the bill for religious organizations, and to ensure that the government could not retaliate against such groups in awarding contracts and grants.”
It was partly due to this amendment that well-known conservative, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, lent his support of ENDA. "A person's sexual orientation,” he said, “is irrelevant to their ability to be a good doctor or engineer or athlete or a federal judge." But he was equally concerned what this might portend for religious freedom. He didn’t want businesses with religious affiliations to be forced to hire gay employees if such measures would violate the tenets of their faith. Still, with this amendment, Mr. Toomey thought that ENDA was good legislation. After all, no one should be discriminated against.
The question that immediately comes to mind is this: Why is it necessary? In fact, Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws are interpreted to mean that it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. This is plainly stated on the U.S. Equal Employment Commission website. And in more and more cases, this interpretation is being used to violate conscience rights. That is, it is compelling people to act or to provide a service that they deem contrary to their faith.
In August of 2013, for instance, the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruled against Elane Photography for their decision not to photograph a ceremony involving a same-sex couple. Elaine Hugenin, owner of the photography business, claimed that her refusal to carry out the services was due to her religious beliefs.
However, the state Supreme Court justices were not persuaded by Elaine’s position. Neither was Louis Melling, the Deputy Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union. She praised the decision saying, "Today's opinion recognizes the sincerity of those beliefs, but makes clear that no one's religious beliefs make it okay to break the law by discriminating against others."
Indeed, this view seems to be prevailing. Recall that in 2010 that “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was successfully repealed in the military. Since then, gays can be open about their sexuality. So, again, why is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act necessary? I’m afraid it will not be exclusively used to prevent unjust discrimination against employees or prospective employees who may have same-sex attractions. If past is prologue, as in the Elane photography State Supreme Court decision, it will be used to discriminate against those who oppose same-sex marriage or the homosexual lifestyle.
Keep in mind: laws are of secondary importance nowadays. The interpretation of the law is where the power is. But bad laws make bad interpretations much easier.
As Congressman Paul Ryan recently stated, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. But his concern was that ENDA might have unintended consequences. Personally, I am not convinced that the consequences will be “unintended.” When he speaks of consequences I think he means that it may be used coercive purposes, compelling the private sector and even religious organizations cooperate with the gay-rights agenda.
To repeat, the campaign to stop unjust discrimination based on sexual orientation is likely to be used, as it has been, to discriminate against those who cannot, in good conscience, cooperate with any activity that would suggest approval of same-sex unions. You see, it is not the thing itself that needs to be considered, but how that thing will be used.
Case and point: Not a few Christians were in favor of the idea of nationalized healthcare. But in 2010, when the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, it was becoming clear that healthcare was a means in carrying out other designs. The contraceptive mandate was one such design. And now, the implementation of nationalized healthcare is creating all sorts of headaches. The idea of universal healthcare is noble. But how it will be used and by whom were not sufficiently considered. Did not our Lord say: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.” And I have to wonder if ENDA is just another “prudent” tactic by the children of this world.
Among good, believing Christians the naiveté of evil has been quite costly. We are at a crossroads in a nation when soft-despotism may begin to harden a bit. Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America (1835-40), once made the point that democratic nations are not immune despotism. He said,
“If despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them…[Under such despotism] the will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting…”
Since the early 1960s, Christians have been “prevented” from praying and the reading the bibles in public schools; “prevented” from displaying religious symbols in the public square; and “prevented” from speaking openly about the sanctity of marriage in many of our public institutions.
Now, however, there is a strong movement to force us to “act” and to “obey.” And as Jordan Lorence, a lawyer representing the Elane photography business, said, "Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country."
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.