From playgrounds to wedding cakes to something called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” religious freedom has been winning lately in the courts.
Stuart Shepard asks Ashley Shaw, Family Policy Alliance’s new legal expert, to explain the nuances of these court actions and how they impact Christians across America.
by Ashley Shaw
If your child attends a Christian school, he or she is likely to be taught by teachers who cherish the Christian values so important to your own family. Your child’s teacher may even have signed a faith-based code of conduct to help preserve the school’s commitment to biblical morality.
But what if your child’s teacher chose to abandon those values and became pregnant out of wedlock or even decided to have an abortion? Your school may face the hard choice to take disciplinary action against the teacher for not reflecting the code of conduct she voluntarily signed.
Should a Christian school have the freedom to make that choice?
If the legislatures in California and New York have their way, the answer is “No.” Both bodies are considering bills that would take away the freedom of religious employers to require their employees to abide by codes of conduct based on biblical values.
The bills ban an employer from “tak(ing) any adverse employment action” against an employee based on his or her “reproductive health care decisions, including the use of any drug, device or medical service.” The bills also prevent employers from requiring employees “to sign a code of conduct or similar document that purports to deny any employee the right to make his or her own reproductive health care decisions.”
These provisions essentially mean that an employee who, for example, has premarital sex or has an abortion in violation of their employer’s guiding biblical values would be free to do so without penalty. In fact, while many Christian schools often require their students to abide by a moral code of conduct, those schools would be unable to require the same standard of their teachers, if these bills pass.
Proponents of the bills, like NARAL, argue that firing or disciplining an employee for violating a code of conduct is discriminatory. But federal law and the Supreme Court have long allowed religious employers the freedom to hire and fire based on the tenets of their faith.
The California bill, AB 569, purports to align with federal law by providing an “exception” for religious organizations if the employee in question is the “functional equivalent of minister,” but that exception is intentionally drawn too narrow to adequately protect most religious employers.
The real aim of such bills is to chip away at the established freedom of religious employers to establish a moral standard on issues such as abortion or sex outside of marriage. But religious organizations must be allowed the freedom to have employees who will abide by the tenets of faith that are so integral to their organization’s purpose.
If you live in California, now is the time to reach out to the members of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee to ask them to vote NO on AB 569 to protect the religious freedom of employers. You can do quickly and easily that through our Family Policy Alliance Action Center.