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TEC among 37 faith groups to back anti-discrimination law

TEC among 37 faith groups to back anti-discrimination law

The Episcopal Church is one of 37 faith groups to sign a letter sent this week to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S.11). The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism coordinated and released the letter, supporting the measure to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The measure includes a strong religious liberty exemption, and states:

On behalf of our organizations, representing a diverse group of faith traditions and religious beliefs, we urge you to support S. 811, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). As a nation, we cannot tolerate arbitrary discrimination against millions of Americans just because of who they are. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should be able to earn a living, provide for their families and contribute to our society without fear. ENDA is a measured, common sense solution that will ensure workers are judged on their merits, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity. We call on you to pass this important legislation without delay.

Many of our sacred texts speak to the importance and sacred nature of work – an opportunity to be co-creators with God – and demand in the strongest possible terms the protection of all workers as a matter of justice. Our faith leaders and congregations grapple with the difficulties of lost jobs every day, particularly in these difficult economic times. It is indefensible that, while sharing every American’s concerns about the health of our economy, LGBT workers must also fear job security because of prejudice.

At the same time, as religious denominations and faith groups, we deeply value our guarantee to the freedoms of faith and conscience under the First Amendment. ENDA broadly exempts from its scope any religious organization, thereby ensuring that religious institutions will not be compelled to violate the religious precepts on which they are founded, whether or not we may agree with those precepts. In so doing, ENDA respects the protections for religious institutions afforded by the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are protected from baseless discrimination in the workplace.

We urge Congress to swiftly pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 811) and ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have an equal opportunity to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families.

In addition to the Episcopal Church, signers include the African American Ministers in Action, Alliance of Baptists, Central Conference of American Rabbis, DignityUSA, Hindu American Foundation and National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. See full list here.

TEC has long advocated for passage of the anti-discrimination act. From the Web site of the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

Biblical tradition teaches us that all human beings are created in the Divine image. As it says in Genesis 1:27, “And God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.” Regardless of context, discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental belief. As people of faith, we firmly oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gays and lesbians, for the stamp of the Divine is present in each and every one of us.

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Sarah Lawton

In 2009 the General Convention passed a resolution specifically focused on the gender identity piece of ENDA, putting The Episcopal Church on record as opposing discrimination in housing, employment, etc. against transgender persons, so our support for this letter is partly based on that action. So glad TEC is joining with other churches and faith groups in signing this, and glad for the work of the Episcopal Public Policy Network in lifting the up.

And this week, for the first time ever, a transgender person testified before Congress on ENDA. Progress ....

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