A coalition of diverse religious groups has come together to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, including African American Ministers in Action, the Anti-Defamation League, The Episcopal Church, Hindu American Foundation, and Muslims for Progressive Values. In their letter to senators, they describe how protecting LGBT people from discrimination is crucial to their faith:
Many of our sacred texts speak to the importance and sacred nature of work – an opportunity to be co-creators with God – and demand in the strongest possible terms the protection of all workers as a matter of justice. Our faith leaders and congregations grapple with the difficulties of lost jobs every day, particularly in these difficult economic times. It is indefensible that, while sharing every American’s concerns about the health of our economy, LGBT workers must also fear job security because of prejudice.
At the same time, as religious denominations and faith groups, we deeply value our guarantee to the freedoms of faith and conscience under the First Amendment. ENDA broadly exempts from its scope any religious organization, thereby ensuring that religious institutions will not be compelled to violate the religious precepts on which they are founded, whether or not we may agree with those precepts. In so doing, ENDA respects the protections for religious institutions afforded by the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are protected from baseless discrimination in the workplace.
At Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Craig Parshall of the National Religious Broadcasters Association testified that ENDA’s religious exemptions do not go far enough, though they already protect religious organizations and religious-run schools. He argued that any business owner should be free to discriminate based on their religious beliefs, an exemption so broad that ENDA would be practically unenforceable. These groups demonstrate that there are significant religious arguments to be made in favor of LGBT equality and protection from discrimination.