Administration Denies Change in LGBT Hiring Policy for Faith-Based Groups

By | June 5, 2015

WASHINGTON DC, June 5 (C-Fam) Last week the Friday Fax reported on the charges of a whistle-blower that the Obama administration is on the verge of instituting a policy that would require groups getting federal grants to consider hiring openly LGBT individuals, even if such a policy would violate the group’s religious conscience.

This new policy would mimic a change that took place last summer requiring federal contractors not to discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At that time two Catholic bishops complained about the policy even though federal contracting falls mostly to non-religious groups. An inordinate number of faith-based groups, however, would be affected by a similar policy applied to grantees. Many would have to forgo government funding and some might be required to close.

None of the faith-based groups working the federal government we spoke to have heard of such a policy change, though one said it would be a natural outgrowth of the change last summer. The groups we spoke to were incredulous, however, that such a change was in the offing.

Though we contacted the US Agency for International Development, they did not respond. A spokesman for the National Security Council told a reporter from World Magazine, “The policy reflected in the Executive Order applies to employment decisions of federal contractors, not grantees.  Recent reports suggesting that the Administration is considering extending that policy to cover employment decisions of grantees are inaccurate.”

Stanley Carlson-Thies of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance told the Friday Fax that he contacted Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who told him no such change is being contemplated. Carlson-Thies pointed out that the administration has required grant recipients not to discriminate on those they serve, but not for questions of employment.

“It is one thing to tell a federally funded religious organization that it must serve every eligible person, without discriminating based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity–it is a wholly different matter to reach into the grantee and say that the grantee itself must conform to federal SOGI ideals in its internal operations,” he said.

In an article to be published this week, Carlson-Thies says, “Faith-based organizations are relatively rare in federal contracting, much of which involves services to the government, such as janitorial or IT services, or the procurement of buildings, military equipment, and other goods.  But many faith-based organizations receive federal grant funding, either directly from the federal government, or through state or local government programs—funding to provide welfare services, child care, pre-K education, low-income housing, prisoner reentry programs, drug addiction services, overseas relief and development, and much more.”

He says a stealth decision, as described by the Friday Fax whistleblower would be difficult to verify. The only evidence of such a change “will be new restrictive language that appears in grant announcements and grant application forms. This has not happened – at least not yet.”

He urges his readers to alert his organization if such language appears in grant materials.