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Pride at Work Statement on DOJ Religious Exemption Guidance

For Immediate Release

October 6, 2017

Contact: Jerame Davis – jdavis@prideatwork.org

Pride at Work Statement on DOJ Religious Exemption Guidance

Washington – Freedom of religion is foundational to our country, but this new directive from the DOJ is extremely dangerous for LGBTQ working people. The broad language is effectively a taxpayer funded, government sanctioned license to discriminate. There are two clear targets of this memo: contraception and LGBTQ people. While Sessions identifies these as two separate targets, we know that they are one in the same. Planned Parenthood is the number one provider of healthcare services to transgender people. LGBTQ people across the board will be severely impacted by reduced access to contraception for their healthcare and family planning needs.

But one of the more frightening portions of this memo is how it allows wide-sweeping discrimination at the federal level. In effect, the implementation of this memo will erode the protections employees of the federal government and its contractors currently receive. Under this new interpretation, the government has no right to second-guess whether a “sincerely held religious belief” is a reasonable application of a person’s religion. In other words, the government must accept at face value, whatever a person says they believe and treat that belief as if it is reasonable. A belief in discrimination is unreasonable, period, and the federal government is neglecting its responsibility to enforce that.

According to Sessions, the government cannot assess the validity of a belief once it’s claimed and they must take that belief into consideration as a matter of the highest order when deciding to handle a case. Because the memo explicitly states that these beliefs can be held by a person or an organization – including a for-profit business – it will become that much more difficult for a working person to seek remedy from the federal government for discrimination in any context.

Our freedom to work, support our families, and earn a fair return on our work and simply exist is directly threatened by this memo. The message it sends to our country is that discrimination is OK so long as you claim it’s your sincerely held religious belief. That’s not real freedom of religion. Real freedom of religion respects the boundaries between government and faith while protecting the rights of all citizens regardless of faith – or lack thereof. Real religious freedom respects your beliefs, but does not excuse your actions when they harm others. Real religious freedom doesn’t use faith as a weapon to inflict harm on others.

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Pride At Work organizes mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBTQ Community for social and economic justice. We seek full equality for LGBTQ Workers in our workplaces and unions and we organize in the spirit of the union movement’s historic motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” Learn more at www.prideatwork.org

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