A federal court in Michigan has allowed a religious employer to discriminate against a transgender employee because "the Bible teaches that God creates people male or female," and "that a person's sex is an immutable God-given gift and that people should not deny or attempt to change their sex." The employer, a funeral home director, claimed that allowing a transgender employee to "deny their sex while acting as a representative" of the company "would be violating God's law," so he fired the employee. The court upheld the termination.
You may remember when the Supreme Court permitted the for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby to claim a religious belief and the privilege of imposing that on all its employees. The Michigan court's decision is based on the same federal statute that led to the Hobby Lobby decision: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The judge wrote, "as to the wrongful termination claim . . . the Funeral Home is entitled to a RFRA exemption."
RFRA is a superstatute that effectively amends every other federal law, including laws meant to protect citizens from unfair treatment. The First Amendment already protects religious freedom in this country, rendering RFRA unnecessary. The simplest solution is to repeal RFRA. Short of that, the Do No Harm Act would limit which laws RFRA applies to, including the Civil Rights Act, which is meant to protect employees from sex- or gender-based discrimination.
FFRF needs your help to get the Do No Harm Act moving through Congress. The bill currently sits in the House Judiciary Committee, but needs broader support from all members of the House in order to get a hearing. Urge your state representative to cosponsor this bill!
Michigan members take note: Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Dave Trott (MI-11), and Rep. Mike Bishop (MI-8) are al on the Judiciary Committee where the Do No Harm Act currently awaits a hearing. Get them to take an interest!
Contact your congressional representative today to voice your support for the Do No Harm Act. Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as your constituent and a nonreligious American. On August 18 a federal district court judge in Michigan ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows a Christian business owner to fire an employee on the basis of their gender identity. Thanks to RFRA, a funeral home can fire an employee, who identifies as a woman, for wanting to wear women's clothing to work because the employer believes, for religious reasons, that that employee is a man.
The dissenting Supreme Court justices in Hobby Lobby warned that this is where RFRA would lead: to a world where employment discrimination becomes legal so long as the employer cites a religious justification for the discrimination. Now those warnings are proving true. RFRA is a dangerous weapon that undermines the very purpose of the Civil Rights Act.
To combat this injustice, please work to repeal RFRA and additionally please become a cosponsor of the Do No Harm Act, an act that would curb the damaging effects of RFRA. The Do No Harm Act is a commonsense bill that would limit which laws RFRA applies to. For instance, RFRA would no longer allow believers to be exempt from the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, laws that require employers to provide wages and other compensation, or laws that require coverage for any health care item.