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Religious Tolerance logo

2016-JUL: The federal FADA:
(First Amendment Defense Act):

2016-JUL: Part 6 of six parts:

A brief description of the status quo.
A concern of some Christian groups.
State versions of FADA. (being written)
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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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A brief description of the status quo:

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national group promoting equality for and acceptance of the LGBT community. They published a brief explanation of how they view the current situation, in which the federal FADA bill has been filed but has not become law:

"The Right to Believe is Fundamental.  The Right to Use Taxpayer Dollars to Discriminate is Not.

The U.S. Constitution provides strong protections for individuals and organizations to exercise religion and to freely speak about beliefs.  Nothing in federal law, including the right to receive exempt tax status, a federal grant or contract, or other federal benefit, can be denied on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief.  

However, the federal government has an equally strong obligation and interest in eradicating harmful discrimination.  [Activities] ... that discriminate against a third party -– an employee, a hospital patient, a homeless family -- have no business being funded by the federal government." 1 

If FADA becomes law, then the federal government would lose the ability to "eradicate harmful discrimination." Individuals, non-profit agencies, for-profit agencies, companies, etc., could freely discriminate on the basis of their beliefs about marriage or human sexuality, and the federal government would be unable to stop them.

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Special Constitutional protection granted to churches and faith groups of other religions:

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to erect a "wall of separation" between "church and state" -- between religion and government. This command was later expanded by the passage of another amendment to the federal Constitution to include the state governments as well. As a result, governments have not been able to directly interfere with faith groups in various ways:

  • The federal government has not forced churches and non-Christian faith groups to integrate racially. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been quoted as saying:

    "Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of Christian America." 2

    There are lots of churches whose membership is completely black, or almost so. There are even more churches whose membership is completely white, or almost so.

  • Churches and non-Christian faith groups are free to remain sexist by refusing to ordain women, or by not allow them into any position of authority.

  • Clergy can freely refuse -- and have refused -- to marry couples for any reason, including that the couples are interracial, of the wrong color or color combination, of the same gender, viewed as too immature, of another denomination, of a different religion, etc.

    Some supporters of FADA bills have raised fears that the federal government will prohibit ministers, pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, etc. from discriminating against couples with valid marriage licenses. However, these fears are totally without any foundation.

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A major motivation for passing FADA:

Some religiously-affiliated educational institutions, hospitals, and similar groups, fear a loss in their tax-exempt status if they continue to actively discriminate. Bob Jones University is often mentioned as an example:

During the 19th century, evangelical pastors often taught that God placed different races of humans in separate places on earth. They believed that God wanted the races to remain separate and not intermingle. Above all, the believed that God wanted multi-racial couples to marry.

Bob Jones founded Bob Jones College in 1926. He felt that blacks living in the U.S. should be grateful that their ancestors were transported by white slave-owners from Africa to the U.S. as slaves. Jones wrote in 1960 that if they had not been enslaved, then:

"... they might still be over there in the jungles of Africa, unconverted."

Since he believed that anyone who is not saved will spend eternity after death in the torture chambers of Hell, for a person to be converted while alive on Earth was and remains of paramount importance.

Jones moved his college to Greenville SC in 1947 where it became fundamentalist Christian degree-granting university. Student admissions were restricted to members of the white race.

Federal government pressure convinced them to racially integrate their student population in 1971. However, they continued to prohibit all interracial dating, both on or off campus.

In 1976, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the University's tax exempt status and sent the university a bill for $490,000 in back taxes. The university sued, and appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1983, the High Court ruled against the university by a vote of 8 to 1.

In 1998, a spokesperson for the University, Jonathan Pait, explained:

"God has separated people for his own purposes. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different from one another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established." 3

In the year 2000, interracial dating was finally allowed. In 2008, Bob Jones University admitted that its past policies were wrong. 3

Currently, many conservative Christian groups still discriminate against same-sex engaged or married couples, and against sexually-active singles of all sexual orientations. The former are concerned that they might lose their federal tax exemption status, or government grants, etc. in the same way that Bob Jones University did years ago. This is a major motivation for these groups to support the FADA bill, and to also see state versions of FADA passed into law. Then they could freely discriminate without any financial concerns.

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State versions of FADA. (being written)

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More developments on this topic are expected in the future.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stephen Peters, "Anti-LGBT So-Called “First Amendment Defense Act” Would Have Dangerous & Far-Reaching Consequences," Human Rights Campaign, 2016-JUL-17, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  2. Billy Hallowell, "Is Sunday Church Service Still the ‘Most Segregated Hour in This Nation’?," The Blaze, 2015-JAN-19, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  3. "Bob Jones University Apologizes for Its Racist Past," Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2009, at: http://www.jbhe.com/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-AUG-03
Latest update: 2016-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson
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