Commentary

Christian Right issues anti-LGBT manuals teaching legal discrimination

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These two culture war defense manuals are designed to maximize opportunities presented by these (and other) court decisions.  

Because the Supreme Court held in Hosanna-Tabor that the ministerial exception does not apply solely to persons traditionally thought of as ministers, churches may now be able to cover most—if not all—church employees under the widening umbrella of the definition of ministry by making them more “minister-like” on paper.

The manuals urge, for example, tailoring job descriptions to try to show how they are a manifestation of ministry. The Southern Baptist manual suggests assigning “… employees duties that involve ministerial, teaching, or other spiritual qualifications – duties that directly further the religious mission.

For example, if a church receptionist answers the phone, the job description might detail how the receptionist is required to answer basic questions about the church’s faith, provide religious resources, or pray with callers.”

While the courts may not buy the idea that someone who answers the phone can be reasonably construed as part of ministry in the legal sense, this is the kind of thinking that permeates the conservative Christian world.

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The Baptists claim that a reason for these measures is that malevolent intentions lurk behind the passage of local LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances.

These laws “are not designed for the innocent purpose of ensuring all people receive basic services,” the Baptists claim. “Rather, their practical effect is to legally compel Christians to accept, endorse, and even promote messages, ideas, and events that violate their faith.”

The Baptist manual avers that religification cannot inoculate institutions from “all attacks by marriage counterfeits and those advocating for complete sexual license.”   But it concludes that these measures might place an organization in a “more defensible legal position should it face a lawsuit for discrimination.”

These manuals demonstrate that Christian Right leaders of the culture war intend to fight LGBTQ Rights and marriage equality in the states, in the towns and cities, and in many kinds of institutions, no matter what the federal government and the courts may say.

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