Prelates raise concern over Trump decision to keep Obama executive order

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in this 2014 file photo. (CNS/Reuters)

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in this 2014 file photo. (CNS/Reuters)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairmen of two bishops’ committees expressed disappointment Feb. 1 over President Donald Trump’s decision to retain a 2014 executive order by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors.

Trump’s action is “troubling and disappointing” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

The executive order, they said in a joint statement, is “deeply flawed.” In a July 21, 2014, statement, Archbishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput’s predecessor as committee chair, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, labeled the executive order “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.”

In the 2014 statement, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone said the term “sexual orientation” was “undefined,” and that “gender identity” was “predicated on the false idea that ‘gender’ is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.”

They added, “Even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”

The two prelates urged Obama to include a religious exemption. Fourteen other religious leaders also asked for such an exemption in a letter to Obama so that “protection for one group would not come at the expense of faith communities” who religious beliefs motivate them to serve.

Father Larry Snyder, then Catholic Charities USA president, was one of the 14 leaders who signed a letter to the president. He told Catholic News Service he was among religious leaders who then met with White House staff to discuss the executive order before it was issued. The priest said later the order upheld “already existing religious exemptions, that will allow us to maintain fidelity to our deeply held religious beliefs.”

In their Feb. 1 statement, Archbishops Chaput and Lori said, “The church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” but the Obama  executive order “creates problems rather than solves them,” adding that it instead “creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith.”

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