HHS Mandate was just the first step. Here comes a new attack on religious liberty.


Get set, folks. This is serious stuff.

This morning, Buzzfeed – “The Media Company for the Social Age” – broke the news that the White House is drafting an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Buzzfeed reported that “the order likely would either amend an earlier executive order signed by President Lyndon Johnson banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin or would be modeled after that order.”

Federal contractors? Discrimination? Sounds uninteresting, right? After all, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself claims that LGBT individuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” And, that same Catechism adds that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358). This new executive order is a hill of beans, isn’t it?


What the Obama White House is doing is drafting another executive order that sends one more sucker punch right into the gut of the American Catholic Church.

Even the left-of-center National Catholic Reporter understands what is at stake. Fr. Thomas Reese claims that “Depending on what exemptions [the executive order provides], the new requirement may affect Catholic Relief Services, Catholic hospitals, Catholic education, and other Catholic charities that received Federal funds.”

Bottom line: The HHS Mandate hit health care workers and institutions. This new assault? Basically, it hits all the rest of the Church’s charitable social services. In other words, the Obama White House is casting the net of its progressive agenda much further and wider this time.

What practical impact could this executive order have? Picture this. A Catholic archdiocesan or diocesan adoption service, that needs federal monies in order to function, announces plans to place children in traditional families comprised of one father and one mother. Such a plan would violate the new executive order being drafted. What happens next? A phone call from the Feds? Burdensome fines? At this juncture, we don’t know. But, perhaps history is prologue.

Fr. Reese reports that “In 2010, the Washington archdiocese … got out of the adoption business when gay marriage became legal in the city. It was also threatened with the loss of funding to help the poor when the city council required that employers with city contracts provide spousal benefits to gay employees. Instead, the charities eliminated spousal benefits for all future employees. Since heterosexual employees would not receive spousal benefits, the agencies could not be accused of discrimination.”

That same scenario has played itself out elsewhere. Fr. Reese notes that, “For example, in 2006, Catholic adoption programs were closed in Massachusetts and San Francisco because the state and city said the agencies could not receive funds if they refused to sponsor children with gay couples.” And, “Dioceses in Illinois pulled out of adoption services for the same reason in 2011.”

To be sure, the new executive order would reawaken an old debate. Fr. Reese observes that “Similar rules at the state and local level have been opposed by the U.S. bishops.” Here’s the kicker, though. When those state and local rules came through the door of political legislation, Catholics could hope to obstruct their passage or later overturn them through legitimate democratic debate and procedures in the halls of government. Now? The Obama White House is preparing to side-step those debates at the federal level.

The Huffington Post stated that “The move is the clearest indication to date that the administration is prepared to take action on LGBT rights where Congress has fallen short.” HuffPo further explained that “Obama’s plan to draft an executive order comes after years of inaction on this front.” It adds that “The administration has been calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal for employers nationwide to fire or harass someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” But, here comes the deeply troubling point: “The bill passed the Senate, but as it stalled in the House, pressure mounted on the president to act in ways that don’t require legislative approval.” And, now, the Obama White House is preparing to respond to that pressure.

Translation: Obama’s team is gearing up to place pressure on Catholic charitable social services to conform to its progressive agenda. Church services – like adoption agencies – will have to face a choice: Either conform to that agenda or shut their doors for lack of federal financial support. The choices are bleak.

But, have no fear: According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Obama White House claims that “in preparing the order it will listen to all interested parties.” Yeah right! That sounds familiar. We know where that led last time. It led to the Obama team shoving its progressive agenda right down our throats.

So, get set for another big fight. Just like with the HHS Mandate, we’re not going to budge. We refuse to go down without a fight. This is far too important an issue.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

John Paul Shimek is a 2003 honors graduate of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire--one of the oldest Benedictine colleges in North America. He holds ecclesiastical degrees from the graduate schools of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Those degrees were awarded to him in the names of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl. His academic specializations include the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Second Vatican Council, and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. John Paul has provided special counsel to numerous Church leaders, including both the former and current archbishops of Milwaukee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Jerome Listecki. Most recently, he served as a technical theological assistant to Archbishop Listecki during the preparation of a pastoral letter for the Year of Faith. He has been interviewed and he has written on a wide spectrum of religious and public forum issues for numerous media outlets, including CNN, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Telemundo, Zenit, the Catholic News Agency, the National Catholic Register, Catholic Exchange, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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