Labor Department’s Religious Liberty Rule is a Directive to Discriminate

For Immediate Release: August 16, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) condemned the Department of Labor (DOL)’s new Directive regarding religious exemptions for government contractors as a further example of religious privilege being used to impose real harms on Americans.

According to the Directive from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which supervises federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equality, the directive prohibits OFCCP staff from rejecting a contract on the basis of any belief or practice that an applicant claims is religious, without regard for harm to third parties as a result of the belief or practice. DOL claims that this will allow religious organizations to “compete on a level playing field for … [Federal] contracts.”

“In practice, this means religious groups must be allowed to discriminate. They can take federal money and federal contracts, and refuse to follow the federal anti-discrimination laws which exist for the protection of all Americans,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “And it is clear who are going to be harmed by this policy move – the LGBTQ community, women, and religious minorities including atheists.”

CFI characterized this OFCCP directive as part of a continuing pattern of policies coming from this White House aimed at entrenching Christian privilege in the United States. As a reward to the Religious Right that helped elect him, President Trump has time and time again granted special rights to religious groups, sending the message that they are distinct from the rest of society and above the law.

“This Directive imagines religious organizations as a special class of government contractor who ought to receive taxpayer dollars without any thought for the anti-discrimination laws and rules that apply to every other government contractor,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “The Department of Labor claims that it’s creating a ‘level playing field’ by letting religious contractors off the hook for discrimination. But under this Directive, religious organizations aren’t joining the competition, they’re being exempted from it.”

In addition, the Directive states that DOL intends to publish a regulation that further entrenches the privilege established by the Directive. CFI will work to oppose this directive, along with any new regulation based upon it.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at