EPC joins NAE and others in disappointment over Obama executive order

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), of which the EPC is a member, issued a statement on July 21 in which the organization regrets President Obama’s decision to omit an exemption for religious organizations in his executive order that requires federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories in their employment policies.

Leith Anderson, NAE president, said that Obama “missed an opportunity to lead the nation toward greater tolerance and social harmony by respecting diverse viewpoints on divisive issues. Religious groups that have longstanding and principled positions should be allowed to compete for federal contracts on an equal basis.”

The NAE statement explained that as federal contractors, religious organizations provide overseas relief and development services in partnership with USAID; services on contract with the Bureau of Prisons; and research, technical assistance, and other services for a variety of federal agencies. “These organizations are often the best-qualified applicants for federal contracts or subcontracts. It is counterproductive to bar them from offering their services due to their religious convictions.”

In June, Obama announced that he would issue an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from considering sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring decisions. The NAE met with White House officials to provide input, and leaders from a long list of organizations and denominations asked for robust religious freedom protections in any executive order. However, the President’s order failed to include these recommendations.

“Our entire society suffers when our government discriminates against religious groups and loses access to their services. Instead of bringing us together, the President’s actions today sow the seeds for continued polarization,” Anderson said.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also spoke strongly against the executive order, saying that Obama’s decision was “unprecedented and extreme” and should be opposed.

“In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination,” the USCCB statement said. “With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

The Department of Labor will develop regulations over the next three months for implementing the executive order, and the NAE will continue to advocate for protection of religious freedom in all federal regulations as these protocols are written.

Click here for the full NAE statement. Click here for the full USCCB statement.