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Craig Parshall, General Counsel

 

ENDA - Beginning of the End for
Christian Dissent?

November 11, 2009

When you’re caught in a tsunami, the objective assessment of weather patterns is usually the last thing on your mind. But since my testimony last week before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in opposition to the gay-rights inspired Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – and in the wake of the homosexual movement-supported hate crimes bill recently signed by President Obama – I’ve been checking the political & cultural “weather,” and it is clear that hurricane season is upon us. First Amendment advocates everywhere ought to be shocked by the statement of Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) during the Senate hearing, when he praised ENDA as something that will move America from mere “tolerance” of homosexuality to actual “acceptance.” I would hasten to add: forced acceptance by the coercive arm of the federal government. Under ENDA, employers will be subjected to budget-crushing lawsuits, money damages, and the payment of plaintiff’s attorney fees for their failure to hire or promote persons because of their sexual orientation, or “gender identity” (read: transgender, transvestite, etc.). I opined in the hearing that the so-called “exemption” for religious groups in ENDA is more mirage than reality. Courts have already ruled that religious groups get no exemption regarding any discrimination that is deemed to be based on “gender,” and federal judges have stated that sexual orientation bias is basically a form of “gender discrimination” (rather than a form of “religious” discrimination) under Title VII (the existing employment discrimination law). So how exactly does ENDA protect religious organizations? ENDA simply cross-references to Title VII in its so-called “exemption” section, and says that you receive under ENDA whatever religious liberty scraps are left for you under the Title VII table. The emphasis, here, is on scraps. Under Title VII, for-profit Christian organizations are given little or no exemption already, and many non-profit Christian ministries under ENDA will be required to obey the Iron Curtain-style coercion of ENDA’s new form of coerced social “acceptance” because of the slight-of-hand performed in the wording of ENDA’s religious “exemption” section.

So much for the current employment law tsunami in Congress. Here’s the weather outlook: Capitol Hill is being besieged with attempts to crush social dissent, thereby threatening the ability of Christians to proclaim the Gospel. At the ENDA hearing in the Senate, new Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez linked the recently passed “hate crimes” law to the ENDA bill, promising an “elaborate roll-out” of both from the Department of Justice and dubbing itself the new “conscience” for America. A “hate speech” petition filed with the FCC early this year, demanding that it investigate conservative radio and TV, is picking up steam. It is supported by a study from UCLA, which has denounced conservative talk radio for creating “a climate of hate and prejudice,” and now has the vocal So We Might See coalition behind it. The Democrat Senators at the ENDA hearing consistently tagged NRB’s objections as tantamount to cries that “the sky is falling.” Well, not a falling sky, but an approaching attempt to strong-arm Americans out of their personal consciences, all through the muscle of the federal government. Does that sound extreme? In Canada, similar laws have empowered its equivalent of the FCC to reprimand Christian broadcasts this way: “… intolerant comment can find no salvation [and no exemption from broadcast bans on hate speech] by wrapping itself in religious garb.” In the United Kingdom, the police formally investigated a radio guest for a “homophobic incident” because she said that she was opposed to gay adoption. In all of this turmoil, however, there is a ray of sunshine. Unlike the weather, the legal and political hurricane on Capitol Hill is actually something that Americans have the power to change.