Conservative media outlets have repeatedly asserted that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination against LGBT workers - discriminates against Christian businesses, but a new report from PolitiFact has rated that claim "False."
On December 16, PolitiFact evaluated a fundraising email from the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) which claimed that ENDA would unfairly punish Christian businesses. PolitiFact rated TVC's claim "false," noting that ENDA includes religious exemptions that are actually more generous than those contained in other federal non-discrimination laws.
PolitiFact also noted that non-religious businesses operated by religious individuals have to comply with the law regardless of the business owner's faith (emphasis added):
Under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and therefore under ENDA, religious organizations, which need not be church-run, would be exempt. Additionally, all businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt, whether they're religious or not.
Nelson Tebbe, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in religious liberty, said ENDA's religious exemption exceeds Title VII's.
"It's broader because the religious exemption in Title VII only allows religious organizations to discriminate [against LGBT individuals] on the basis of religion," he said. But it doesn't allow religious groups to discriminate based on factors like an employee's gender or race.
So by permitting religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ENDA allows them more flexibility than Title VII.
The bill's religious exemption indicates that churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses need not comply by employing people of all sexualities and gender identities. And there's no special negative treatment for Christians.
Businesses of any religion could qualify for the exemption. Individuals of any faith who oppose sexuality would have to abide by the law, so no religion is singled out.
We rate this claim False.
The myth that ENDA would discriminate against Christian businesses has been widely debunked, but that hasn't stopped the lie from gaining prominence among right-wing media outlets.
In a fact-free report on November 4, Fox News correspondent and notorious cheerleader for anti-LGBT discrimination Shannon Bream implied that the bill would punish religious employers, citing "skeptics" who "have worries" about the bill despite its clear religious exemptions.
Bream's report echoed an October 31 segment on Fox's Special Reportduring which host Bret Baier asserted that supporters of ENDA "want religious freedom to take a backseat to another kind of freedom." During the segment, Bream baselessly stated that the bill "could wind up putting religious employers in a tough spot." "[A] Christian school," she said, "worries about being forced to hire a transgender teacher."
National Review Online
National Review Online outsourced its distortion of ENDA to Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson. In an October 31 post, Anderson wrote that ENDA "raises serious concerns regarding religious liberty" and would undermine individuals' rights "to speak freely of religious or moral convictions about marriage and sexuality" - even though ENDA only stipulates that an employer can't discriminate against someone just for being LGBT.
The Washington Times
A serial misinformer on anti-LGBT discrimination issues, The Washington Times has demonstrated time and again during the ENDA debate that it won't let facts stand in the way of its attacks on the bill. The paper responded to ENDA's Senate passage with an op-ed from anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC), who condemned the bill as "reverse discrimination" against Christians and "a major threat to liberty." Two days later, the paper published a column declaring that ENDA would "expand government and repeal the Bible."
This pernicious ENDA lie also percolated outside the conservative noise machine, with mainstream outlets allowing groups like the FRC a platform to claim the bill represents an assault on Christians. FRC fellow Peter Sprigg told The Washington Post in October that ENDA is "a direct attack against the moral convictions of social conservatives." In a March column for CNN, Sprigg argued that the bill would marginalize "people with religious and moral scruples against homosexual conduct."
While the lie that ENDA punishes Christians has been debunked yet again, that's unlikely to deter the bill's opponents in the media, whose arguments against ENDA demonstrate an aversion not just to LGBT rights, but to facts themselves.