Labor Dept. proposes allowing ‘religious exemption’ in hiring for federally-contracted businesses

National News

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A recent proposal from the Department of Labor saying federal contractors can use religion in deciding who they want to hire or fire is already creating controversy.

Opponents say the new rule proposed Wednesday amounts to federally-sanctioned discrimination. Others say it’s just the government protecting a company’s religious liberty.

David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign worries that federal contractors will be able to fire or refuse to hire people who don’t align with the company’s religious outlook – in particular, LGBTQ employees.

“It allows anyone who is a federal contractor who wants to discriminate on the basis of religion to do so,” Stacy said. “One in four Americans work for a company that’s a federal contractor, so this will have a vast impact on the economy.”

Under an Obama-era executive order, federal contractors have been prohibited from claiming a religious exemption in deciding who to hire. The new rule essentially carves out an exemption to that.

As support, the Labor Department cites recent Supreme Court decisions, like the Hobby Lobby case, which exempts private companies from laws that conflict with their religious beliefs.

“But we do believe this is constitutional,” Mary Beth Waddell of the Family Research Council said.

Waddell says the rule is not discriminatory. Instead, she says it provides all companies with equal protection.

“To ensure that faith-based employers can be on a level playing field with all other employers when it comes to their ability to contract with the government,” she explained.

The published proposal is on hold for 30 days so the public can comment. Opponents of the rule are threatening to challenge it in court.

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