On FADA, Notes on the License to Discriminate

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It’s possible that the right wing, now that they control all three layers of the federal government, will try and pass a version of the FADA (The First Amendment Defense Act) so I thought I’d write a bit about it, why it’s unnecessary and basically just a convenient license for using the federal government to discriminate against people you don’t like.

 

The Right Wing doesn’t like a lot of people, though the FADA is usually understood as a backlash targeting LGBT people as a result of marriage equality and other social gains by LGBT in recent years.

Here’s the text of the Amendment:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. [H.R. 2802, introduced 6/17/15]

The Right Wing asserts that this amendment is needed to protect the religious views of people who feel this way, i.e., their first amendment rights. In reality, it would enshrine the right to discriminate against LGBT persons, unmarried single mothers, or any couple of any sexual combination residing together unmarried. Among the things it would allow are these examples:

  • allow federal contractors or grantees, including those that provide important social services like homeless shelters or drug treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people or anyone who has an intimate relationship outside of a marriage
  • let commercial landlords violate longstanding fair housing laws by refusing housing to a single mother based on the religious belief that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage
  • permit a university to continue to receive federal financial assistance even when it fires an unmarried teacher simply for becoming pregnant
  • permit government employees to discriminate against married same-sex couples and their families – federal employees could refuse to process tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security checks for all married same-sex couples
  • allow businesses to discriminate by refusing to let gay or lesbian employees care for their sick spouse, in violation of family medical leave laws [ACLU, 7/20/15]

So basically, such a law would throw out existing protections LGBT have through the government and allow discrimination based on someone’s beliefs.

I would be awestruck to see where it is in the defining documents of these religions (i.e., The Bible) where it says that you’re supposed to not bake that gay wedding cake or not cut that social security check for that gay man. Cause it doesn’t say that anywhere. Basically, if you believe those documents, they tell you that YOU – the person having that belief – are not supposed to live your life that way. In other words, if you believe those scriptures, YOU should not live a gay life. It doesn’t say anything about the rest of us, which, incidentally, is not even relevant because the United States is not guided or beholden to ancient religious texts.

Also, the Right Wing seems to think that it needs this law to protect its anti-LGBT churches and schools from the big bad IRS. But that argument is easily debunked, e.g. churches of all kinds (Catholics, are you listening?) have been discriminating against women for eons without getting their tax exempt status revoked. And of course, you can always still believe what you want and teach whatever doctrine you have in your religious school. We don’t have the thought police, at least not yet (Minority Report?)

So if these two items are eliminated, what is left? Oh, I guess maybe you can’t just use  your religion as a hammer to punish people you don’t like. Sorry.

It’s like this (paraphrased from a letter to the editor on media matters.com, from “nerzog”):

Religious beliefs are protected. Religiously inspired actions are not. So: They’re still allowed to be bigots, they can think what they want. They can still verbally express their bigotry, if they’re willing to endure the social consequences. What they can’t do is: break anti-discrimination laws.

Most of the data in this post comes from media matters.