CFI Among 98 Groups Urging Obama to Reject Calls for Religious Exemption in LGBT Executive Order

July 15, 2014

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) was among 98 religious, secularist, civil rights, and other organizations to sign a letter sent today to President Barack Obama, urging him to reject calls to include a religious exemption in a proposed executive order designed to protect from discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals who work for federal contractors.

Last month, the Obama administration announced it would draft an executive order barring companies which do business with the federal government from discriminating against prospective and current employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Soon after the announcement, 14 prominent religious leaders sent a letter to the administration demanding that religious organizations be allowed to continue discriminating against LGBT Americans using taxpayer dollars (it is worth noting that, in a separate letter sent last week, 100 religious leaders took the opposite position). 

In contrast, our letter states that: 

Religious freedom is one of our most cherished values, a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs within certain limits. It does not, however, provide organizations the right to discriminate using taxpayer dollars. When a religiously affiliated organization makes the decision to request a taxpayer-funded contract with the federal government, it must play by the same rules as every other federal contractor. ...

Signing an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans by all federal contractors and restoring the prohibition against religious discrimination by all federal contractors will be key parts of your legacy of upholding this principle.

We urge you to act to prohibit any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion with taxpayer funds by all federal contractors, including religiously affiliated organizations. 

We further argue that Obama should reverse an executive order issued by former President George W. Bush, 13279, which expanded the religious exemption under the existing federal contractor order issued by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 11246

Other groups signing onto the letter include Americans United for Separation of Church and State, African American Ministers in Action, Muslims for Progressive Values, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, PFLAG National, and the United Methodist Church, General Board and Society. 

You can download the full letter here.