Executive Order: Conform Your Theology, or Stop Helping People


This week, President Obama made an executive order demanding that only organizations who agree with the administration’s view of sexuality are eligible to receive government contracts, refusing the requests from Christian and other religious faith leaders to include robust religious protections in the text of the order.

What Changed?

This order amends an order from 1965 prohibiting contractors from discriminating “against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The President’s revision added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Because they can’t “discriminate,” religious organizations with federal contracts won’t be able to require their employees to hold to the tenets of their faith. For example, a Catholic organization wouldn’t be able to refuse to hire someone who doesn’t hold to the Catholic beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

But there is a sort of “patchwork of protections” in place, because this order doesn’t do away with a 2002 order from George W. Bush that allows religious groups to “consult their beliefs” when hiring or firing.

The executive order affects organizations with federal contracts, not grant recipients, so organizations like World Vision, Catholic Charities, and World Relief might be in the clear… for now. However, prison ministries and military ministries are commonly contracted, and the government is increasingly using contracts instead of grants for overseas relief work.

Sexual Rights or Religious Rights?

Religious leaders sent two letters in June and July asking the President to allow them to continue the hiring processes they’ve used since he took office. “We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion on this issue in a way that respects the dignity of all parties to the best of our ability,” the letter reads.

By refusing, he sent a clear message: sexual rights trump religious rights.

Joe Biden summed it up: “I don’t care what your culture is,” he said. “Inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice.”

Except when it’s not.

The Obama administration is clearly under the disillusion that protecting the freedom to speak and act on the belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman is the same as racist segregation. It’s not.

If religious organizations can’t require their employees to hold to their faith, the organization can’t operate according to their faith. It’s as ludicrous as demanding that a Democratic lobbying organization hire Republicans. At that point, it’s no longer Democratic.

Essentially, the administration is holding a carrot over a cliff. Take the carrot and conform your theology, or stop helping people.

Of course, some of these organizations may be able to raise the funding they need to continue without the government’s help. But the reason the government worked with these organizations to begin with was because they do good work and benefit others. It was in the government’s interest to use tax payer funds to aid the work that these groups were doing to benefit communities in the states and abroad.

In one of the letters to President Obama urging him to include a religious exemption, the faith leaders wrote: “In a concrete way, religious organizations will lose financial funding that allows them to serve others in the national interest due to their organizational identity. When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.”

Now, the government is using an executive order to enforce a moral judgment. Thus, the only organizations worthy of taxpayer funds are those that agree with what the government says is morally correct, not what their faith or their conscience dictates.

“That’s the kind of government entanglement with religion that the Founders sought to prevent and that the First Amendment prohibits,” said Kristen Waggoner, ADF Senior Counsel.

Where It’s Going

Although as a grantee World Relief isn’t yet affected, Jenny Yang, its vice president of advocacy and policy, isn’t resting easy. “Our main concern is its implication on religious freedom down the line, where future executive orders could also include not just federal contractors but grantees as well,” she said. “It’s a slippery slope, and we feel the need to speak up whenever we feel like religious freedom is threatened.”

And speaking of prejudice, the faith leaders who signed the pleas to the President are already facing backlash.

After D. Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College, a Christian university, signed one of the letters to the President, the city of Salem canceled their contract with the school, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges decided to evaluate the school’s accreditation. Why? They claimed that the college now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community, even though the college’s hiring process hasn’t changed.

If Christian non-profits aren’t allowed to be Christian, and if Christian colleges aren’t allowed to be Christian, how long before this trend affects churches too?

If the government edicts that only non-profits that conform their theology to the homosexual agenda are worthy of tax dollars, it’s not a stretch to say that only non-profits that fit the new moral norm are worthy of tax exemptions.

Then it will be up to the church to decide whether they will conform or face the consequences.

What can you do?

Encourage your pastor to stand for truth by joining Pulpit Freedom Sunday. And speak up for religious freedom with your friends and family, on social media, or where you have the opportunity to make a difference.

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom