Clergy Know Their Rights. In This Letter, They Prove It

The First Amendment Defense Act was introduced last month by Sen. Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Labrador (R-ID) in response to the Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality. The bill would create a sweeping religious exemption that would allow government employees, contractors, and grantees to discriminate against same-sex couples, unmarried couples, and single parents. For example, it could allow a homeless shelter or food bank that receives federal grants to refuse to serve a same-sex couple in need.

The bill would even prohibit the government from enforcing existing federal non-discrimination laws. This means it could prohibit the enforcement of fair housing laws and thus allow a landlord to refuse to rent to an unmarried couple or a single mother.

This bill is certainly is not a “defense” against anything – except perhaps against having to follow civil rights laws.  Members of the clergy agree.  

Last week, Bend the Arc,  along with numerous interfaith allies, released a letter signed by over 3,000 clergy and faith leaders in opposition to this harmful bill. They wrote: 

...the religious liberty on which our nation was founded guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs — but it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others or to infringe on the religious beliefs of others.

Although people may disagree on the issue of marriage, we should treat each another fairly and with respect. Clergy and faith leaders around the country know that it is not right for organizations and individuals to take government funds and then ignore nondiscrimination laws. Hopefully, Congress listens and does not move this bill.