DC to Force Religious Institutions to Violate Conscience

washington dcThe District of Columbia City Council passed a bill this week that will repeal an exemption to a human rights bill that allowed religious schools to practice their faith as it pertains to homosexuality and will now force them to choose between their God and the government.

On December 2 the District of Columbia City Council passed Bill #B20-803 which repeals the religious educational institution exemption to certain provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act. The new law repeals a section in the DC code which read:

(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of the laws of the District of Columbia, it shall not be an unlawful discriminatory practice in the District of Columbia for any educational institution that is affiliated with a religious organization or closely associated with the tenets of a religious organization to deny, restrict, abridge, or condition –

    (A) The use of any fund, service, facility, or benefit; or

    (B) The granting of any endorsement, approval, or recognition, to any person or persons that are organized for, or engaged in, promoting, encouraging, or condoning any homosexual act, lifestyle, orientation, or belief.

In addition to voting to repeal this exemption, the council also voted to ban all sexual orientation change efforts which violates the fundamental rights of counselors, minors and parents who may seek this treatment.

“This vote will have a severe impact on religious liberty in our nation’s capital,” warned Mat Staver, Founder & Chairman of Liberty Counsel, a non profit legal organization dedicated to preserving religious freedom. “Religious schools and church-affiliated schools must now choose whether to obey God or to obey government. In addition, if signed into law by the mayor, the law will trample the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs.”

Staver continues: “The unfortunate irony here is that this bill was passed in the name of ‘human rights.’ By restricting religious freedom, a fundamental human right, this bill is injurious to human rights and equality. It is my hope that Mayor Gray will refuse to sign this bill into law.”

Liberty Counsel sent a letter to all members of the City Council announcing their intention to sue the city if this repeal is allowed to stand.

“‘Sexual Orientation’ and ‘Gender Identity or Expression’ or ‘Transgender’ are subjective, changeable,behavior-based categories subject to moral choice, and are not immutable characteristics such as race, sex, skin color or ethnicity, nor are they in the category of fundamental rights, such as religious belief,” the Counsel writes.

“Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions have the right to be the moral conscience of their community; they may speak out on moral issues which are defined as “sin” in their respective faith traditions; and they may inculcate their youth with these religious and moral values in their private religious schools. They may not be penalized for doing so.”

This is in keeping with the First Amendment which prohibits the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

“Given these undeniable facts, attempting to impose employment regulations on church, schools and religious schools whose doctrines and sincere religious convictions forbid homosexual or cross-dressing affiliation and employment is flatly unconstitutional,” the letter continues. “The City is without authority to force churches and their affiliated schools to employ individuals engaged in conduct expressly forbidden by the teachings of the church.”

Forcing religious institutions to hire homosexuals and cross-dressers, or to allow individuals who embrace these behaviors to use their facilities, represents a severe infringement upon the free exercise rights of churches, the Counsel states.

Therefore, “If the City Council repeals the religious exemption for religious organizations, churches, and church schools, Liberty Counsel is prepared to litigate to protect its many local constituents against violation of their cherished liberties.”

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