Last weekend, Rob ran a post in which he asked “If Discrimination Isn’t A North Dakota Value, Why Does Anti-Discrimination Bill Allow It?
I respect, even though I disagree with, Rob’s libertarian view on anti-discrimination laws. It is not my intention to get into a tit for tat with Rob regarding the need for this anti-discrimination law. The bottom line is both Rob and I agree that discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation is repugnant and has no place in a civilized society.
However, regarding SB2279 it is important to note that religious organizations have a long history of being exempt from anti-discrimination laws.
As a private employer, I am barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from requiring my employees to adhere to a specific religious belief or practice in order to hire them or allow them to maintain employment. However, the law allows for a Religious Organization Exception for organizations whose purpose and character are primarily religious. For example, a Lutheran Church is not required to hire a Catholic Priest just because he is the most qualified. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that federal discrimination laws do not protect church employees, who perform religious duties.
In that ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, “But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.” Roberts said that when there is debate on this issue, “the First Amendment has struck the balance for us.”
The bottom line is the law recognizes the fact that religious organizations have a constitutional right to dictate who is hired to promote their religion.
Additionally if I own a public building, I am required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make that building accessible to people with disabilities. However, a church is allowed an exception to the law. Churches are not required to make accommodations to people with disabilities in their buildings or their services.
The real ironic thing about this is that in the 25 years since the ADA was passed, many churches have voluntarily made modifications to their buildings and/or services in order to better accommodate people with disabilities. I firmly believe without the ADA and the resulting social acceptance of disability related accommodations, this never would have happened.
The established reality is the religious exceptions to SB2279 are consistent the anti-discrimination exemptions already established in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
However, the opposition to this bill has never been about religious organizations being forced by the government to accept and endorse people who are GLBTQ. None of the supporters of the bill are trying to force religious organizations to change any part of their dogma. The opposition of this bill, with the exception of previously mentioned libertarians, has always been about straight up homophobia.
I applaud the North Dakota Senate for standing up to this homophobia. I only wish I had high hopes the House would do the same.