(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) strongly condemned President Obama’s July 21 executive order, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating "on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," saying it is "unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed" and, in effect, "implements discrimination."
In a statement released Monday, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo noted that the executive order, which will impact a fifth of the U.S. workforce, discriminates against faithful Catholics.
Archbishop Lori is USCCB’s chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Malone is the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. They point out that a lack of distinction and clarity in the language of Obama’s order will result in excluding those who try to abide by Church teaching from all federal contracting.
“In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination,” the bishops said.
“With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
“The Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman,” they continued.
“But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term 'sexual orientation'. As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”
The bishops also complained that “the executive order prohibits 'gender identity' discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level and that is predicated on the false idea that 'gender' is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.”
“This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female,” they added.
The bishops concluded by pointing out that states have previously avoided the conflicts arising from “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions by providing protections for religious employers. Even the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed by the Senate last year included some religious liberty protections for religiously affiliated nonprofit employers, they pointed out.
“The executive order is an anomaly in this regard,” they said, “containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation.”
Bishop Lori previously joined with Bishops Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California in expressing opposition to the Senate’s passage of ENDA last year because of similar concerns regarding its limited exemptions for religious employers.
They complained that “for- profit employers, nonprofit employers having no religious affiliation, solely-owned and closely-held businesses, and even some religious employers would be subject to ENDA, even if they have a religious or moral objection to same-sex sexual behavior.”
Robert George, vice chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, commented on the USCCB's statement, saying that Obama's executive order has reduced people of faith “to the status of second-class citizens.”
“Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality,” George said.
“We must defeat the enemies of conscience—at the ballot box—not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own.”