New federal rule protecting religious liberty of organizations praised

New federal rule protecting religious liberty of organizations praised

Christian leaders are applauding a rule proposed Aug. 14 by the Department of Labor (DOL) to protect the rights of faith-based organizations that contract with the federal government.

The new rule would guarantee “conscience and religious freedom are given the broadest protection permitted by law,” DOL officials said. 

The regulation would clarify that churches and other religious organizations acting as federal contractors may hire and fire based on their sincerely held beliefs without fear of being penalized by the government.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed gratitude that the DOL “is showing a proper concern for protecting religious freedom.”

The proposed regulation seeks to clarify that the religious exemption in a 1965 executive order from President Johnson “covers not just churches but employers that are organized for a religious purpose, hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose and engage in exercise of religion consistent with, and in furtherance of, a religious purpose.”

Some gay rights and civil liberties organizations criticized the proposed rule.

The Human Rights Campaign — the country’s largest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) civil rights organization — said the proposal violates a 2017 promise by President Trump to uphold a 2014 executive order by President Obama. Obama’s order amended Johnson’s 1965 order to protect LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination. The White House denied this proposal breaks President Trump’s 2017 promise.

“In no way does [the] announcement by the Department of Labor undermine the President’s promise and commitment to the LGBT community,” the administration said in a statement for the newspaper The Hill. “The proposed rule will continue to responsibly protect religious freedom and members of the LGBT community from discrimination.” (BP)