CCAR Statement Opposing the So-Called

"First Amendment Defense Act"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Central Conference of American Rabbis adamantly opposes the so-called "First Amendment Defense Act," introduced by Senator Mike Lee as S. 1598 and by Rep. Raul Labrador as H.R. 2802. The proposal would advance no First Amendment freedom, but would grant a license to discriminate to individuals, organizations, and corporations. The primary victims would be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

Better termed a "Federal License to Discriminate" bill-- in the words of our partner, Lambda Legal-- the proposal would leave President Obama's Executive Order 1126 unenforceable. That Order protects some 16.5 million LGBTQ employees of federal contractors from job discrimination. Moreover, under this Bill, a government contractor could fire an employee with a strong performance record after learning that the employee had married a partner of the same sex; and an employer could refuse to grant FMLA leave to an employee to care for a legally married spouse. Worst of all, a federal government employee could refuse to process a claim, benefit, or service to which a married same-sex couple is entitled under federal law and to which the Supreme Court has held the couple is constitutionally entitled.

Reform rabbis do not merely oppose misusing religious freedom to facilitate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We affirm LGBTQ Jews and all human beings as created as God intended, b'tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image.

Nobody takes a back seat to Reform rabbis and our Reform Movement partners in pursuing American religious liberty. We will not stand idly by while our most cherished American freedom is perverted in order to discriminate.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger        Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                           Chief Executive