Three chairmen of U.S. bishops’ committees expressed their opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA) as passed Friday by the U.S. Senate.
Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty explained the reasons for their opposition in an October 31 letter addressed to Senators, available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/joint-letter-senate-enda-2013-10-31.pdf.
Emphasizing the dignity of all people, the bishops quoted Pope Francis’ statement that “Work is fundamental to that dignity.” They added that “the Catholic Church has consistently stood with workers in this country and continues to oppose unjust discrimination in the workplace. No one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including his or her sexual inclinations.”
The bishops noted, however, that ENDA goes beyond prohibiting unjust discrimination and poses several problems. The bishops explained that the bill: (1) lacks an exception for a “bona fide occupational qualification,” which exists for every other category of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, except for race; (2) lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct, thus affirming and protecting extramarital sexual conduct; (3) supports the redefinition of marriage, as state-level laws like ENDA have been invoked in state court decisions finding marriage discriminatory or irrational; (4) rejects the biological basis of gender by defining “gender identity” as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex; and (5) threatens religious liberty by punishing as discrimination the religious or moral disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct, while protecting only some religious employers.
Further detail on these problems with ENDA may be found in a backgrounder, which is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/enda-backgrounder-2013.pdf.
The bishops stressed a desire to advance legislation that protects the common good, and said, “We are grateful to live in this country where every group enjoys the right to hold to its beliefs, organize itself around them, and argue for them in the public square in the service of the common good.”