Nearly 70 Religious and Civil Rights Organization Demand Obama Not to Exempt Religious Contractors for Protecting Gays

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Nearly 70 religious and civil rights organizations have signed on to a letter that demands that Obama not to allow religiously affiliated contractors from a new executive order that is meant to protect LGBT employers of federal contractors. The religious exemption clause exists thanks to Republican senators who demanded it as a stipulation to the order.

Read the full letter after the jump…

Dear Mr. President:

We understand you intend to sign an executive order that would bar discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We write today to urge you to reject calls to weaken the executive order by providing a special exemption for religiously affiliated contractors. Furthermore, we ask that you take this opportunity to rescind Executive Order 13279’s amendment of Executive Order 11246, which exempted religious organizations that contract with the government from the prohibition against employment discrimination on the basis of religion.

Many of the undersigned organizations have long supported workplace nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, including advocating for this executive order. All of our organizations have worked to preserve traditional safeguards that protect civil rights and religious liberty when government partners with religiously affiliated organizations—safeguards we defend for the good of both religion and government.

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.

Indeed, taxpayer-funded discrimination, in any guise, is antithetical to basic American values. Polls consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly understand and agree that when tax dollars are in play, discrimination is wrong. If an organization requests and receives government funding, it should not be allowed to discriminate against qualified job applicants based on who they are or what their religious beliefs may be. Yet, exempting religiously affiliated organizations that contract with the federal government from prohibitions on discrimination by federal contractors would do just that.

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