The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, asserting that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is essential to Catholics’ religious liberty. In a letter to Senators, the Bishops claimed to oppose discrimination, but then explained why they cannot support ENDA. Here are the five reasons they cite:
There Is No Exemption For “Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications”
With the exception of race, other protected classes like sex, religion, and national origin allow for discrimination in the case of “bona fide occupational qualifications” (BFOO), essentially leaving room for jobs in which a particular identity is necessary to perform the job. The Bishops argue that this exemption must be extended to sexual orientation, asserting that there are cases “where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclinations.” In other words, the Church should be free to discriminate against employees based on their private sexual behavior because some jobs require heterosexuality. They cite no such examples.
There Is No Distinction Made Between Status And Conduct
The Bishops worry that “sexual orientation” would include not only people’s identities, but their behavior as well, thus “legally affirming and specially protecting” sexual conduct outside of (heterosexual) marriage. Again, the intent seems to be a desire to discriminate against people for their private sexual conduct.
ENDA Supports Marriage Redefinition
Though nothing in ENDA has anything to do with marriage laws, the Bishops claim that “ENDA would be invoked by federal courts” to enforce marriage equality. They cite no evidence to support this assertion.
ENDA Rejects The Biological Basis Of Gender
The Bishops reject any distinction between sex (which is strictly biological) and gender identity (which is not), alleging that individuals “may choose at variance” which gender they identify with on any given day. This idea preys on misunderstandings about transgender people and the consistent, innate nature of their gender identities. They also argue that allowing trans people to use the restrooms in their workplaces would violate the “privacy interests” of others.
ENDA Threatens Religious Liberty
Though ENDA has one of the most far-reaching religious exemptions of any nondiscrimination ordinance, the Bishops believe the bill could be used to “punish” any religion that condemns same-sex sexual conduct. Of course, ENDA only applies to employment, not teachings. If anything, it seems the Bishops are simply worried that government agencies will retaliate against Church entities that use their religious exemption to discriminate, but the Senate is planning to prevent such retaliation in the bill.
The Bishops conclude that they are ready to help “end all forms of unjust discrimination,” which, in the context of all the exceptions they’ve listed, suggests that there are many forms of anti-LGBT discrimination they consider to be just. Indeed, they argue that sexual acts outside of heterosexual marriage are not good for people or for “society as a whole.” Though Pope Francis may have suggested the Church de-emphasize its involvement in social issues like LGBT rights, it seems the U.S. Bishops are taking the exact opposite tact.