Religious Groups Demand Exemption From Obama Gay Executive Order

Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 03:24 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Religious groups are putting pressure on President Barack Obama to be exempted from a planned executive order that prevents companies with government contracts from discriminating against gays and lesbians, The New York Times reports.

The move follows the Supreme Court's controversial Hobby Lobby ruling that closely-held for-profit corporations could not be compelled to provide contraceptive healthcare coverage for female employees.

Although Obama has still yet to sign his order barring discrimination, several major faith organizations said that groups whose religious views oppose homosexuality should be excluded.

There has been no explanation for the executive order's delay, says the Times, while noting that supporters of the president are among the faith groups pushing for the exclusion.

Last week, one day after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, religious leaders sent a letter to Obama saying, "We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need."

The letter, which called for a "robust religious exemption," was drawn up by Michael Wear, who worked in the White House faith-based initiative during Obama's first term and led the president's faith outreach during the 2012 campaign, the Times reported.

It was also signed by Rev. Larry Snyder, leader of Catholic Charities USA, Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church who delivered the invocation at Obama's first inauguration, and Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an offshoot of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Wear, an "ardent supporter" of Obama as well as gay rights, told the Times that the letter was a request from "friends of the administration," saying, "We're not trying to support crazy claims of religious privilege."

Wear added that he's pushing for an exemption from the executive order so that faith groups are given protection in upholding their religious-based moral standards for their staff members, the newspaper said.

Obama is now caught in a dilemma between efforts to preserve religious freedom and to support the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.

Conservatives and evangelicals would be outraged by any attempt from the federal government to intrude on religious beliefs. But gay rights supporters, who form part of Obama's liberal base, would be stunned if the president passed a measure appearing to discriminate against gays.

On Tuesday, in fact, gay right groups called on Obama to ignore the religious exemption request and sign his executive order a soon as possible.

"Activists have every expectation that this executive order will be issued without any further religious exemption," Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign told the Times.

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