Several African-American spokespersons addressed the media at the press conference in order to refute the idea that all black community activists are in favor of ENDA. It is obvious that the black community is no longer a monolith. One size does not fit all. Some of the most well-known black civil rights organizations have sold out the black community by supporting such legislation. We declared that although gay activists are seeking to hide behind the race issue, this legislation affects every American – black or white.
Let me give you a list of five of the most important reasons we are against this legislation.
1. ENDA would overturn the historical basis of protected class status by adding “actual or perceived sexual orientation.” While every other federally-protected class embodies three standards: an obvious, immutable characteristic; a history of discrimination evidenced by economic disenfranchisement; and political powerlessness, “sexual orientation” falls under none of these criteria. It is an insult to African Americans to grant special protections for “sexual orientation.”
2. ENDA expands civil rights protections on the vague basis of perception. An employee or potential employee could sue an employer for his or her perception of their sexual orientation. Yet unlike the currently-protected classes of race, age, and gender in employment, sexual orientation is not scientifically verifiable. It is an offense to African Americans to equate “sexual orientation” with skin color.
3. ENDA infringes on the religious liberties of our parishioners. As shepherds of our flock, we cannot stand by while our parishioners are forced to ignore their convictions when they leave church on Sunday. ENDA requires people of faith to lay down their religious freedom at the office door. This opposes our beliefs and it is not practical – faith cannot be segmented into only one part our lives.
4. ENDA puts the integrity of our ministries in jeopardy. Many African-American churches run outreach ministries separate from the church to care for our communities. My local church runs a daycare which cares for over 200 children daily and the potential to serve another 100+ children in extended care for those who are in school. ENDA provides unclear protection for schools, while leaving ministries such as childcare, after school programs, and food and clothing banks vulnerable to ENDA mandates.
5. ENDA is a direct attack on our freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment grants all Americans the freedom to practice their faith. ENDA stands in direct opposition to this liberty and must be rejected as a result.
ENDA will be voted on this coming week. Therefore, I want to encourage everyone reading this article to send it to at least five additional people. Second, I recommend that every reader contacts their congressional representatives. Third, we need to contact the President’s office in order to encourage him veto both the Hate Crimes (S 1105) and ENDA (HR 3685) legislations, if passed.
Let’s make up our minds to win the culture war.
I, for one, am counting on you!
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.