Atheists have blasted new guidelines on religious exemptions for federal contractors issued by the Trump administration this week.
The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs released its final rule on religious exemptions Monday, which Alison Gill, vice president for legal and policy at American Atheists, called “an absolute attack on religious equality and workers’ rights.”
“Job applicants and workers should not have to pass a religious litmus test, especially when it comes to government funded contracts,” Ms. Gill said. “The American taxpayer should not be forced to fund discrimination, period.”
The Department of Labor (DOL) explained the new guidelines as an effort to overcome bias against religious organizations in contracting labor.
“This rule will encourage the full and equal participation of religious organizations as federal contractors,” reads a DOL statement published Monday. “Religious organizations, many of them small nonprofits, provide such essential services as feeding the hungry, supporting refugees, and educating our nation’s students.”
“Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “This rule gives full effect to Executive Order 11246’s protection of religious organizations.”
Atheist groups critical of First Amendment protections of religious freedom suggest that the new guidelines will promote bigotry.
“It’s unconscionable, though hardly surprising, that the lame-duck Trump administration would expand the ability of federal contractors — who employ one-fifth of the American workforce — to use religious litmus tests to hire or fire employees for jobs paid for with taxpayer dollars,” said Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Like so many others issued by the Trump administration, this rule particularly puts at risk workers who are LGBTQ, women, religious minorities and non-religious people,” Laser added.
“On their way out the door, the Trump Administration is doing everything it can to lock in preferential treatment for religious bigots over the rights of millions of American workers who could lose their jobs as a result,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists.
“We look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration to reverse this dangerous policy,” Fish said.