Religious freedom shouldn’t be discriminatory

Trump’s rule proposal implies that employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers must be legalized for the sake of American civil liberties. However, positive religious interpretation proves this to be untrue.


by Sophia Durone, Features Editor

As someone who was raised Presbyterian and attended public elementary school, I knew virtually nothing about Catholicism when I first walked into Mr. Bertalott’s Old Testament Foundations class. Upon participating in one of his trivia games, I quickly realized that my understanding of the religion would never be as complete as my classmates’ who had attended Catholic grade school. In an attempt to grasp the religion, I chose to focus on one concept that I knew I could support: the STA Mission Statement.

Presented by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the STA mission is to love the dear neighbor without distinction. Although I do not practice Catholicism, this message has resonated with me since my first day in January 2017. Its inclusivity was something I believed everyone could endorse, but this valuable lesson has been forgotten by our current presidential administration. 

The U.S. Department of Labor recently proposed a rule asserting that “religious organizations may make employment decisions consistent with their… religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government.” This seems unproblematic, especially because the statement released Aug. 14 clarifies that employers may not “discriminate on the basis of race, sex or other protected bases.” However, failing to hire individuals due to LGBTQ status would be legalized once again under this ruling. 

This proposal is nothing short of an attempt to override President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on these grounds. Why does the Trump administration believe that bigotry must be legalized for religious freedom to prevail?

Allowing employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity is simply not loving the dear neighbor without distinction. Our current executive government’s belief that this change is necessary to preserve American personal freedoms disappoints me. I have learned that religious expression can be achieved through positive and productive action rather than through hatred, especially when it comes to business practices. 

There are countless ways to integrate religious beliefs with corporate matters without refusing to employ LGBTQ workers. For example, Tom’s of Maine co-founder Tom Chappell incorporates his Episcopalian faith into his work by encouraging his employees “to use 5% of their paid time volunteering for causes they’re passionate about” according to the business’ website. Tom’s of Maine also donates 10% of their hygiene products to non-profit organizations near their national distribution centers. 

Alternatively, after practicing as a Hindu monk for 12 years, 5-Hour ENERGY’s creator Manoj Bhargava generously pledged to donate 99% of his personal wealth. In his self-made documentary project, Bhargava expressed his mission to provide “clean water, reliable electricity and sufficient food” by using his fortune to help those in need. 

As demonstrated in Chappell’s and Bhargava’s work among others, religion can motivate businesses to strive for the greater good with faith-based action. While religious unethicality is unfortunately prevalent in the U.S., I believe the Trump administration has severely misjudged religion’s ability to compel the public to act with moral consciousness. If embraced with positive intentions, religion does not need legalized discrimination to effectively manifest itsself. 

Due to this severe misinterpretation, the Supreme Court will review two cases which regard LGBTQ status-based employment decisions Oct. 8. As a nation, we must stand against the Trump administration’s desire to strip the rights from LGBTQ individuals among other U.S. minority groups. After all, we cannot love our dear neighbor without fighting along their side for equality under the law.