KNIGHT: A ban on the faith-based workplace

Last week, the U.S. Senate matter-of-factly, with no serious vocal opposition except a last-ditch warning of the consequences by Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican, voted 64 to 32 to expand government and repeal the Bible.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act doesn’t say that directly, but its core meaning is that employers — and their employees — must accommodate every sexual expression under the sun or face federal prosecution and nuisance lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union.

House Speaker John A. Boehner said the bill would not reach the House floor. People who believe in the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, not to mention what’s left of property rights, had better hope he keeps his promise. This is about so much more than the threat of “frivolous lawsuits.”

Even if you’re not persuaded by moral arguments, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a massive expansion of federal power and a gift to trial attorneys, who are among the largest donors to the Democratic Party. Ten Republicans joined 54 Democrats in the final vote. They’re either spectacularly naive, or they think they’re smarter than God. You can love and cherish friends and family who are homosexual without bringing a government jackboot down on everyone else.

Far from ensuring equality, the bill is a radical departure from civil rights laws, whose protected classes stem from immutable characteristics with no moral content, such as skin color, place of birth or sex. The exception is religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

What makes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” different is that these categories are vague, not immutable, and the associated behaviors have moral implications. In fact, behavior defines the groups. Otherwise, unlike race or sex, no one would know.

By equating such behaviors with neutral, unchangeable characteristics such as ethnicity, the act says to religious employers: “You will abandon your faith-based morality and instead abet behavior that your faith and Scripture says is wrong and harmful.”

It’s a lot like the Obamacare mandate to religious health care institutions to provide abortions — or else.

If you want to know how laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act operate in real life, there are a growing number of cases.

In 2008, a judge in New Mexico affirmed a fine of $6,638 against a Christian couple in Albuquerque who run a photography business. Their crime? Declining to photograph a lesbian ceremony.

Earlier this year, a Gresham, Ore., Christian couple who ran a bakery were investigated for not baking a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. Harassed for months, they closed their business in September.

In California, businesses that decline to provide marital benefits to same-sex couples are denied state government contracts.

In Ohio, a black college administrator was fired in 2008 for writing an article on her own time that disagreed with the notion that race and sexual orientation are equivalent traits.

This is freedom?

Among the Republicans who voted for the bill were Sen. John McCain of Arizona and formerly conservative Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. There is nothing conservative about giving the federal government and leftist pressure groups another enormous club with which to beat America’s employers senseless.

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