NRB testified this week on behalf of religious organizations with serious First Amendment concerns about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. While Senate Democrats alluded to the religious liberty concern as a “technical” issue, NRB insisted that ENDA would assault the constitutional rights of faith-based organizations and lead to a “chilling effect” in religious communities. ENDA would create new employment rights for individuals based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
On a panel of five experts called by the committee, Craig Parshall, NRB Senior Vice President & General Counsel, was the lone witness expressing opposition to ENDA. In his testimony, he declared, "ENDA would impose a stunningly heavy constitutional burden on religious organizations and would interfere with their ability to pursue their mission…. Creating meaningful exemptions for religious organizations so that intrusive government regulations don't collide with their First Amendment liberties is not a legislative prerogative, it is a constitutional mandate."
Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), however, voiced strong support for ENDA (S.811) at the hearing. Regarding the religious liberty objections, he declared, “We’ve been down that road before…. This is something we need to pass and we need to pass as soon as possible.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations