A group of more than 100 pro-LGBT faith leaders -- including clergy, theologians, and representatives of advocacy organizations -- sent an eloquently-worded letter to President Obama today urging him not to include broad, ENDA-style religious exemptions in his forthcoming executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.
"An executive order that allows for religious discrimination against LGBT people contradicts the order's fundamental purpose," the letter states, "as well as the belief shared by more and more Americans every day, which is that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens. An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora's Box inviting other forms of discrimination."
This latest letter counters letters recently sent to Obama by two separate groups of religious leaders -- one of which has members with close ties to the administration -- arguing in favor of the exemptions, which would allow religiously-affiliated groups to continue discriminating against LGBT people in hiring, firing, and the workplace, at taxpayers' expense.
But today's letter rejects that assertion, stating categorically that "public dollars should not be used to sanction discrimination."
In our democratic nation, we believe that public service--especially when it is directly supported by the federal government and our tax dollars--must be aligned with the Constitutional principle that all people deserve equal treatment under the law. Requiring all federal contractors to operate according to the same set of non-discriminatory hiring practices is more than fair; it is a critical safeguard that protects all parties.
It goes on to point out that if businesses were allowed to pick and choose which members of the public they wished to serve and/or which laws they wished to follow based on the owners' religious beliefs, it would "quickly create an untenable morass of legal disputes" that ultimately would end up hurting "the people who always suffer most when discrimination is allowed: the individuals and communities that are already marginalized."
Prominent signatories include the Rt. Rev. Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in mainline Christianity; the Very Reverend Gary R. Hall of the Washington National Cathedral; Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson of Auburn Theological Seminary; Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry; Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry and the executive director of the National Coalition of American Nuns; noted Rabbi Denise Eger; Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism; and Imam Daayiee Abdullah of the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C.
Read the letter, after the jump.