• A proposed rule of the Labor Department was announced on 14th August and would be published on the 15th; whereby the proposal would cement current exemptions that “religion-exercising organizations” can use to shield themselves from bias claims for hiring decisions and other actions motivated by religious belief.
• The proposed rule is meant to ensure that the religious protections are given equal federal recognition as all other civil rights. It discourages employees from discriminations based on sex, race among other factors; but does not exempt contractors from complying to legal requirements.
• However, advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals said that they would work to stop this rule as they felt the rule could bring about discrimination at the workplace.
• The Christian policy organization welcomed the proposal claiming that previous OFCCP did not encourage religious freedom but this proposal would give people the confidence that their religious beliefs would not be compromised when doing business with the government.
• The Christian Legal Society and the Synagogue of Conservative Judaism did not comment on the proposal.
• The Equal Employment Opportunity and the Justice Department are split on the proposed rule. As a result, the issue is in court awaiting judgment by the U.S supreme court. The proposal has been pending review by the White House’s Office since April.
• The rulemaking process will allow the public to participate in giving an opinion on the proposal. Therefore, it will be open for public comments until 16th September.
What happened to the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978? The bill was passed over four decades ago, prohibiting discrimination in federal employment on the basis of conduct that does not affect job performance. Yes, indeed—it makes the distinction just for federal employees, and with regard to the Department of Labor’s new rule proposal, this matters. The proposal wants to allow businesses that receive federal contracts to be able to uphold their religious views in favor of other civil rights. But what this truly translates into is the cementing of a hierarchical structure of discriminatory factors, with religious beliefs transcending above all, like a staph-bearing ruler that can make decisions based on no facts, but on arbitrary distinctions, with a nod of approval from the White House.
Despite all of the insinuating language of the 1st Amendment, the Civil Service Reform Act, and even Obama’s bipartisan supported ENDA bill, which was a proposed federal statute explicitly prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers that didn’t survive the House, seem to be conveniently ignored. Dare we ask why? Must we look further than the obvious?
Amid Trump’s gun control discussions which have angered his own base, it makes sense to turn to a proposal that’ll reignite the approval of his Evangelical supporters. Besides, Mike Pence may not be making many headlines, but our vice president is a strategic player, working behind the scenes to muddle the distinction between church and state. What could possibly be more blatantly obvious than proposing an oddly specific rule, that only applies to those that receive federal contracts, that clearly favors religious belief above all. Allowing it a run around the park to anger those they mock and to strengthen those they need to secure a second term.