I appreciate robust debate on the substance of legislation that I introduce in the Nebraska Legislature.
However, it is disappointing and disheartening when an organization, particularly the Catholic Conference, deliberately misleads their members and Nebraskans about LB 586 which will prohibit discrimination against Lesbian Gay Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Nebraskans in the workplace. It is disheartening to watch as otherwise good-hearted and well-intentioned Nebraskans, manipulated by scare tactics, actively work to deny protections to their LGBT friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow church members.
The Catholic Conference has sent out blast emails to their membership (click here to view) stating that LB 586 does not have a religious exemption. The Catholic Conference also repeats this falsehood in their letters on the purported impact on education and business organizations. This is false, and the Catholic Conference is fully aware of it. Their executive director was at the hearing that discussed the continued presence of the religious exemption at length.
The Catholic Conference’s policies are determined by the three Nebraska Bishops.
The fact that the religious exemption remains in effect for LB 586 that has remained in place for the last 60 years for other protected classes was made clear during the hearing on LB 586 and the Catholic Conference’s executive director acknowledged it during questioning.
Here are the facts:
The proposed work place protection of LGBT Nebraskans in LB 586 falls under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, which has a specific religious exemption for other protected classes (click here to view). The relevant part of the exemption states:
“The Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act shall not apply to: (1) A religious corporation, association, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, or society of its religious activities;”
LB 586 does not change the religious exemption and still falls under it.
In fact because of the misinformation and confusion caused by the Catholic Conference, just to make clear the religious exemption still exists, the committee adopted one non-substantive amendment (changed an “any ” to “an”) to the religious exemption just to ensure it would appear in the legislation LB 586 to make it clear it remains unchanged. As a side note: Only language that you add or change to a law appears in the copy of the legislation. If you don’t change something currently in statute, it just simply is not included in the legislation.
This religious exemption of the NFEP to other protected classes (race, gender, marital status, etc.) has existed since 1965 and closely mirrors the federal religious exemption in Section 702 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The current Nebraska and federal religious exemptions have allowed for instance, churches to hire only male priests despite sex being an otherwise protected class under both federal and state law. The religious exemption remains as it has for 60 years, and strikes the right balance between religious freedom and equality for all Nebraskans.
The truth matters, and it particularly should for a religious organization such as the Catholic Conference.
State Senator, Nebraska Legislature