On Tuesday, David Barton appeared on Missions Radio (click link for entire program), a podcast hosted by Kenneth Mitchell. The topics were mostly current events and Barton’s analysis of them. As with his history, his analysis of current events is also off the mark. In this clip, Barton claims churches have to hire pedophiles to run their nurseries.
Then, Congress has passed what’s called ENDA, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, passed this in ’06 under Pelosi and Reid and at that point in time, it says you cannot discriminate on the basis of hiring.
As a result, the president has now announced that faith based groups have to hire homosexuals; not an option, you have to because federal law says you cannot discriminate on the basis of identity. So if a pedophile comes to the church and says I want to run your nursery, you can’t say no because that’s discriminating on the basis of identity. If a homosexual comes and says I want to be your youth director and you say no, you can’t do that, you can’t distinguish on the basis of gender.
And in the same way as came out at the Supreme Court, back 25 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was wrong, and you had a Christian college, Bob Jones that says we’re still going to do it in dating and interracial marriage, etc., they lost the tax exempt status because they wouldn’t comply with the Supreme Court decision. Well now the Supreme Court says you can’t distinguish on the basis of gender but only on identity, guess what? That calls into qu…and that’s what Obama’s attorney said, it will call into question every single tax exemption in America for every church. I guarantee you that people who thought same-sex marriage was for equality didn’t intend to destroy all the church in America. And that’s what it does.
No. Just no.
Barton is completely wrong about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It never passed both houses of Congress during the same session, and it is not law today. It was not introduced in the 109th Congress (2005-2007). As an aside, the House speaker during that Congress was Dennis Hastert and the Senate president was Dick Cheney. ENDA passed the House in the next Congress but not the Senate. Another version of the legislation passed the Senate in 2013 but not the House (see this timeline).
Barton told Mitchell’s audience that President Obama’s executive order forbidding discrimination by federal contractors came “as a result” of ENDA. Not so. Barton claims faith based groups have to hire homosexuals. However, this order only applies to federal contractors not all faith based groups. Then he uncorked a doozy by claiming that churches have to hire pedophiles who want to run church nurseries. Of course, this is ridiculous fear mongering.
Stop a minute to think about that claim. Anyone who has any knowledge of church work or volunteer work with children knows Barton’s claim is ridiculous. In many schools, you can’t volunteer to accompany your child’s classroom on a field trip without criminal and child abuse clearances. In recent years, churches have been required by liability insurers to screen all volunteers before working with children. Barton’s claims are absurd and irresponsible.
On the claim that a church has to hire an openly gay applicant, Barton offers no evidence. I know of no case where a non-gay-affirming church was required to hire a gay person for a religious function. Churches discriminate on the basis of religion all the time by hiring only those who agree on even fine points of doctrine. Many churches also discriminate on the basis of gender by not hiring women for certain functions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance makes it clear that “governmental regulation of church administration, including the appointment of clergy, impedes the free exercise of religion and constitutes impermissible government entanglement with church authority. The exception applies only to employees who perform essentially religious functions, namely those whose primary duties consist of engaging in church governance, supervising a religious order, or conducting religious ritual, worship, or instruction.” Clearly, youth directing is an essentially religious function.
In the last paragraph above, Barton refers to concerns that religious colleges might be required to treat same-sex unions as they do male-female marriages now. There is basis for this topic but Barton stretches the matter to include churches. The solicitor general Donald Verilli addressed this matter in a famous exchange with Justice Alito during oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges. Justice Alito asked Verilli if a college opposed same-sex marriage would that college suffer the same fate as Bob Jones University who maintained discriminatory policies based on race. Verilli acknowledged that such questions could come up if a right to same-sex marriage was recognized. However, Alito and Verilli did not discuss churches, as Barton implies. Verilli didn’t say a favorable same-sex marriage decision would “call into question every single tax exemption in America for every church” or anything close to it.
For the most part, colleges are places of public accommodation and already operate under federal guidelines when it comes to employment and other civil rights. As Verilli replied to Alito, the question can’t be answered without knowing the specific facts. Some schools may have a better case for allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation than others. However, the issue was never the free exercise of religion by churches. In this context, it would be good to recall Justice Kennedy’s words on the matter:
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.
With uninformed pundits like Barton headlining church conferences, no wonder many evangelicals are worried the sky is falling. I hope Mr. Mitchell will consider giving equal time or at least informing his listeners that Barton was wrong and the First Amendment still exists in America.