First, what is LB485?
"Legislative Bill 485, in the form of Amendment 1771, would add 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' as protected classifications for purposes of the law used to punish employers (of 15 or more employees) for decisions deemed to be discrimination in hiring, firing and terms and conditions of employment. In addition, it would apply the same prohibitive standard to all contractors and subcontractors of the state and political subdivisions regardless of the number of employees." (Taken from the PDF "Background Information on LB485 from The Nebraska Catholic Conference")Why is this a problem for religious liberty?
LB485 does not make the essential distinctions that the Catholic Church makes when it comes to sexual immorality. The Catholic Church teaches that it is not in and of itself sinful to have same sex attraction. In other words, someone should not be unjustly fired "just for being gay." (I have all kinds of problems with the phrase "being gay," but I'll save that for another time.) While the Church does not teach that it is sinful in and of itself to have same sex attraction, it is sinful when one acts on that same sex attraction.
Catholics are taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2358 that those with same sex attraction "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." The argument I'm reading everywhere that "the Nebraska Catholic Church thinks you can be fired just for being gay" is malarkey. (By the way, there is no "Nebraska Catholic Church." It's just the Catholic Church.) If the Catholic Church really taught that we ought to unjustly discriminate against those with same sex attraction, we'd all be rightly outraged.
We need to make an important distinction that LB485 does not. While Catholics are called to never unjustly discriminate against someone with same sex attraction, Catholics uphold the never-changing tradition of the Church that "homosexual acts are intrinsicially disordered" and that "under no circumstances can they be approved" (Emphasis mine. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2357).
Hate the sin. Love the sinner.
LB485 doesn't allow for that distinction. By using the umbrella terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity,"
"This proposed law to prohibit and punish discrimination based on “sexual orientation” extends far beyond unjust discrimination based on any employer’s mere belief that any applicant or employee is sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. It extends legal protection and state governmental affirmation to public activities intended to endorse, promote and facilitate sexual conduct (i.e., lifestyle activities) outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Employers who, because of their religious and/or moral convictions, do not wish to accept or affirm lifestyles that involve sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman will be subject to state-imposed punishment for claims of discrimination." (Emphasis mine. Taken from the PDF "Background Information on LB485 from The Nebraska Catholic Conference")In practice, this means that Catholic parishes and schools in Nebraska would no longer be protected by their morality clause when it comes to "sexual orientation" or "gender identity."
When I became an employee of a Catholic school in Nebraska, part of my contract asked me to sign a "morality clause," meaning that I agreed as an employee of that Catholic school to abide by Catholic Church Teaching. If the school learned that I somehow violated Church Teaching, they would have the right to fire me under their morality clause.
Under LB485, religious and private organizations following adherence to Church Teaching on sexual morality in their workplace and employment practices would be subject to legal action and penalty.
A Catholic school in California is already experiencing legal scrutiny. St. Lucy's Priory fired Ken Bencomo for violating the school's morality clause when pictures from his "wedding ceremony" to his same sex partner were published in a local newspaper. Mr. Bencomo is firing the school for "wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract." Lawsuits like Mr. Bencomo's will continue coming in against religious and private organizations trying to uphold their own moral codes. St. Lucy's Priory and other private or religious organizations will be forced to choose under legislation like LB485: violate your conscience or face legal punishment. Just laws do not force individuals to violate their consciences.
Nebraskans, please join me in opposing LB485. Call or e-mail your state senator, and urge them to oppose LB485. To find your state senator, click here.