The Trump Administration is working on a formal religious exemption to rules that ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ people, according to a several unnamed Labor Department sources who spoke with Buzzfeed News.
According to the sources, the White House is working on a policy that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against workers if the contractor claims that their religion requires them to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The sources did not know if the exception would be limited to federal contractors that are religious – like a Catholic charity – or if it applies to for-profit businesses. Conservatives favor religious exemptions for for-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop, claiming that a religious business owner’s beliefs are violated if their business violates them.
The Office of Management and Budget posted a notice on Wednesday on its website that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) at the Department of Labor “plans to update its regulations to comply with current law regarding protections for religion-exercising organizations.”
The text of the religious exemption rule will be released in December, according to a Labor Department spokesperson.
“We just should not be going down the path of permitting discrimination with government funds, and there’s no reason to open up this can of worms,” said Sarah Warbelow of HRC.
This past August, the OFCCP issued a directive that reiterated existing religious exemptions and encouraging businesses to take advantage of them. But that guidance was just legal guidance and did not create a new religious exemption.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced a “Religious Liberty Task Force.” While Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement didn’t say that federal anti-discrimination rules would change, the task force is intended to give more weight to religious freedom arguments used to advocate for religious exemptions.