National Organization for Marriage calls it a “shocking new attack on religion in America.” According to the anti-gay hate group, American Family Association: “ACLU: Peyote smokers, not cake bakers, deserve their freedom.” Well, not exactly — as you probably assumed.
In 2007 Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel created a memo interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act regarding federal grant awards. It gave religious organizations blanket protections creating what we would now call a license to discriminate. The interpretation is flawed because RFRA was intended to create protections under strict scrutiny when the government created a substantial impediment to the free exercise of religion.
On August 21 a group of 130 religious, education, civil rights, labor, LGBT, women’s and health organizations sent a letter to the president asking him to rescind the 2007 OLC memorandum.
The letter makes an historical and legal case for rescinding the memorandum. The simpler case is that these are federal tax dollars that we all contribute to. Why should my money be used to discriminate against LGBT people? How could a contractor’s employment of LGBT people possibly create a substantial burden on his right to free exercise of religion? His beliefs remain unchanged. Nobody is forcing him to do anything gay or to enter into a same-sex marriage. Exactly what is the burden?
Once again we are in a situation where conservative Christians – in this case government contractors – want to have the freedom to demonstrate their disapproval and to shame LGBT people all nicely cloaked as religious freedom.
RFRA provides for a case-by-case analysis which seems sufficient without redefining the intent of Congress. If AFA and NOM disagree then they can always send their own letter to the President.