WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today responded to the “Manhattan Declaration” produced and released by 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders indicating that they will not cooperate with laws that conflict with their beliefs, including those recognizing same-sex couples. The document also references the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as a threat to religious liberty. Yet ENDA – which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity – broadly exempts religious organizations. The declaration also argues that religious groups that receive public funds to perform social services are unfairly burdened by state and local laws on marriage equality and non-discrimination.
“This declaration simply perpetuates the fallacy that equality and religious liberty are incompatible and that every step toward fairness for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is another burden on religious people. In reality, non-discrimination laws are working all over this country, where religious freedom is existing side-by-side with equal opportunity," said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith Program. "Advocates of LGBT equality have taken great pains in their legislative efforts to ensure that the rights of religious organizations and people under the First Amendment are protected. It is deeply cynical for the authors of this document to paint themselves as victims because they cannot have a free hand to discriminate, including with taxpayer dollars."
“As a rabbi I am offended that this group of Catholics, Orthodox Christian and evangelical Christians are once again trying to foist their theology on government,” said Rabbi Denise Eger, member of the HRC's Religion Council and the founder of Congregation Kol Ami. “They already have the religious freedom to discriminate against gay people in their churches. But if they take government funds for social services then they must abide by the rules of equality that are a foundation of our Constitution.”
Knox also commented upon the claim that religious entities should be able to take public funds without treating LGBT people and same-sex couples equally. "These organizations must decide if they are in the charitable business for charitable reasons or for political reasons. Governments representing entire communities must not be held hostage by any group that puts its own desire to discriminate above the needs of the larger community,” said Knox.