100 Faith Leaders Across the U.S. Say No to Religious Exemption to Discriminate Against LBGTIQ+ People



Our co-director, Mary E. Hunt, signed on to a letter asking President Obama to reject allowing for a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order for equal treatment for LGBTIQ people in the workplace. Learn more at ThinkProgress, and read the letter below.

July 8, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC  20500
C/O Melissa Rogers, Executive Director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Dear Mr. President,

As faith and civic leaders dedicated to affirming the sacred dignity and equal worth of every person, we are grateful for your upcoming executive order ending discrimination against LGBT people in hiring by federal contractors. We urge you not to include a religious exemption in the executive order. In keeping with the principle that our government must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and fairness in its own operations, we believe that public dollars should not be used to sanction discrimination.

We recognize in others, and have ourselves heard, a faithful calling to contribute to our communities and country through public service. The imperative to seek healing and justice is one of the most widely shared values across religious traditions and our world is better because of it.

In our democratic nation, we believe that public service—especially when it is directly supported by the federal government and our tax dollars—must be aligned with the Constitutional principle that all people deserve equal treatment under the law. Requiring all federal contractors to operate according to the same set of non-discriminatory hiring practices is more than fair; it is a critical safeguard that protects all parties. If contractors were allowed to selectively follow employment or other laws according to their religious beliefs, we would quickly create an untenable morass of legal disputes. Furthermore, if selective exemptions to the executive order were permitted, the people who would suffer most would be the people who always suffer most when discrimination is allowed: the individuals and communities that are already marginalized.  Increasing the obstacles faced by those at the margins is precisely the opposite of what public service can and should do, and is precisely the opposite of the values we stand for as people of faith.

In a nation as diverse as the United States of America, it is critical that the federal government be trusted to follow—and indeed, to role-model—equitable employment practices. We believe that our mutual commitment to the common good is best served by policies that prohibit discrimination based on factors that have no relationship whatsoever to job performance. We are better and stronger as a nation when hiring decisions are made based on professional merit   rather than personal identity.

An executive order that allows for religious discrimination against LGBT people contradicts the order’s fundamental purpose, as well as the belief shared by more and more Americans every day, which is that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens. An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.

In addition to protecting current and potential employees, we believe ensuring that federal contractors do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in their hiring helps to reduce the likelihood that these contractors will discriminate against clients or other parties in the provision of services. If contractors are free to discriminate in their hiring, it is at least plausible, if not probable, to conclude that clients will experience discrimination as well. We believe that the best way to eliminate discrimination at one level is to reduce discrimination at all levels.

We are a pluralistic nation—one that is among the most religiously diverse and devout in the world. Each day we continue to make progress on our journey toward “a more perfect union,” in which all God’s children are treated with fairness and dignity. Many forces help spur this progress. They include the courage of everyday people who live openly as who they truly are; the witness of faith leaders who provide a compass for religious growth; the commitment of political leaders such as yourself who help guide our nation toward a more just path; and the passage of laws and policies that ensure fair treatment for all people.

In conclusion, Mr. President, we believe that the path to national unity lies in affirming the full equality and potential of every person. In the spirit of equality, fairness, and justice, we urge you to issue an executive order that ends discrimination against LGBT people in federal contracting without exceptions.

In Faith,

Imam Daayiee Abdullah
Light of Reform Mosque, Washington, DC
Dr. Michael J. Adee
Director, Global Faith and Justice Project
Rev. Dr. Susan R. Andrews
Moderator of the 215th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbi Jonathan Adland
Clergy Advocacy Board, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Rev. Dr. Jim Antal
Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Ed Bacon
Rector, All Saints Church, Pasadena
Karen Barr
Moderator, GLAD Alliance, Inc.
The Most Rev. Craig Bergland
Presiding Bishop, Universal Anglican Church
Matthew Berryman
Executive Director, Reconciling Ministries Network
Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Richard Block
President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Founding Rabbi, IKAR, Los Angeles
Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock
Director, Soul Repair Center, Brite Divinity School
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker-Langston
Executive Director, Disciples Center for Public Witness
Rev. Pat Bumgardner
Executive Director, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches
Rev. Dr. Marjorie L. Coons-Torn
Conference Minister, Penn Central Conference, United Church of Christ
Stosh Cotler
Chief Executive Officer, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
Rev. Richard W. Cowles, Jr.
Interim Conference Minister, Maine Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree
Interim Conference Minister, Florida Conference, United Church of Christ
Ann Craig, M.Div.
Director of Administration, The Fellowship Global
Rev. Jennifer D. Crumpton
Park Avenue Christian Church, New York City
Rev. Fred Davie
Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
Rev. Dr. John Deckenback
Conference Minister, Central Atlantic Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre
Professor of Social Ethics and Latino/a Studies, Iliff School of Theology
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
Conference Minister, Southwest Conference, United Church of Christ
Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director, DignityUSA
Rev. Roddy Dunkerson
Conference Minister, Nebraska Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Beverley F. Edwards
Interim Conference Minister, Rhode Island Conference, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Denise Eger
Senior Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood
Rev. Brian D. Ellison
Executive Director, Covenant Network of Presbyterians
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman
Executive Director, Women of Reform Judaism
Jim FitzGerald
Executive Director, Call To Action
Rev. Dr. Allen Fluent
Acting Conference Minister, Missouri Mid-South Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder
Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Rabbi Steve Fox
Chief Executive Officer, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Rev. David R. Gaewski
Conference Minister, New York Conference, United Church of Christ
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL
Executive Coordinator, National Coalition of American Nuns
Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich
Senior Pastor, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, New York City
Dr. Edith Guffey
Conference Minister, Kansas and Oklahoma Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Debra W. Haffner
President and Chief Executive Officer, Religious Institute
The Very Reverend Gary R. Hall
Dean, Washington National Cathedral
Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson
President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Alice Hunt
President, Chicago Theological Seminary
Dr. Mary E. Hunt
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
President, Union for Reform Judaism
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Pacific School of Religion
Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Senior Bishop Zachary G. Jones
Unity Fellowship Church Movement
Nancy K. Kaufman
Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women
Rev. Rob Keithan
Director of Public Policy, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Frances Kissling
President, Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy
Idit Klein
Executive Director, Keshet
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, New York City
Rev. Harry Knox
President and Chief Executive Officer, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Rabbi Debra Kolodny
Executive Director, Nehirim
Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
President, Claremont School of Theology
Andy Lang
Executive Director, Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church, New York City
Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart
Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning, Pacific School of Religion
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love
The Church of Uncommon Hope, Washington, DC
Rev. Robin R. Lunn
Executive Director, Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists
Rev. Barry Lynn
Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Ruth W. Messinger
President, American Jewish World Service
JamieAnn Meyers
Transgender Representative and Board Member, ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation
Rabbi Dr. Jay Michaelson
Brown University
Rev. Alan C. Miller
Conference Minister, Penn Northeast Conference, United Church of Christ
Dr. Randall Miller
Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean, Pacific School of Religion
Rev. Dr. James L. McDonald
President and Professor of Faith and Public Life, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Rev. Brian McLaren
The Cana Initiative
Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt
President, Starr King School for the Ministry
Alex Patchin McNeill
Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians
Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. Darlene Nipper
Deputy Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Jon O’Brien
President, Catholics for Choice
Marilyn Paarlberg
Executive Director, Room for All, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Dr. Rich Pleva
Conference Minister, Iowa Conference, United Church of Christ
Chett Pritchet
Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action
The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
President and Dean, Episcopal Divinity School
Dr. Hussein Rashid
Founder, islamicate, L3C
Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls
Sacred Souls Community Church and the Freedom Center for Social Justice
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Moderator of the 218th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Bishop Gene Robinson
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Canon Susan Russell
Senior Associate Minister, All Saints Church, Pasadena
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Dr. Bernard Schlager
Interim President, Pacific School of Religion
Bishop John Selders
Bishop Presider, InterDenominational Conference of Liberation Congregations and Ministries
Rev. Kent Siladi
Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ
Sandy Sorensen
Director, United Church of Christ, Washington Office
Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle
Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry, Brite Divinity School
Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan
President, Disciples Justice Action Network
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
The United Methodist Church
Vivian Taylor
Executive Director, Integrity USA
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology, Chicago Theological Seminary
Pastor Joseph Tolton
Executive Director, The Fellowship Global
Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Rev. John H. Vaughn
Executive Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson
Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
Deb Word
President, Fortunate Families


Media Contacts

Jeff Bridges, 303-358-5551, jbridges@uts.columbia.edu

Susan Barnett, 212-989-2956, susankbarnett@gmail.com