Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2017 / 04:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are concerned by the Trump administration’s decision to maintain a “troubling” Obama-era executive order that could demand federal contractors violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender ideology.
“In seeking to remedy instances of discrimination, it creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith. Keeping the executive order intact is not the answer,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Feb. 1. “The Church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” the bishops added. “Executive Order 13672, however, creates problems rather than solves them.”
The executive order is “deeply flawed” with “many problems,” they said, voicing hope the administration would be open to ways to advance conscience rights. Signed by President Barack Obama, the order prohibits federal government contractors from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and forbids gender identity discrimination in the employment of federal employees.
The executive order immediately drew criticism for its lack of religious exemptions. Religious groups voiced concern that they could be disqualified from federal contracts if their faith forbids them to affirm same-sex unions as marriages or to pay for employees’ transgender “transition” surgeries.
On Jan. 31, the Trump White House affirmed its support for Obama’s order. “The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump,” it said.
It added that President Trump is “proud” to have been the first Republican presidential nominee “to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.” It said the president is “determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.”
The Catholic bishops invoked their 2014 objections that the order would have significant consequences. “With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent,” said their July 21, 2014 statement. “As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs,” they warned. “In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination.”
The bishops said the order was unprecedented in making “gender identity” a protected category. They said the concept is based on the false idea that gender is a social or psychological construct totally separate from notions of biological sex. Compliance with the order, the bishops suggested, would require allowing biologically male employees into an employer’s restroom or locker room alongside women.
The bishops’ 2014 statement noted that most states with similar legislation have included protections for religious employers. “The executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protection,” they said.