The Trump administration is destroying as much as it can before they’re all forced to leave. The latest example of that comes from the Department of Labor, headed up by Secretary Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court justice.
The U.S. government gives money to a number of groups for contract work, but since 1965, any company receiving that federal money can’t discriminate against the people it hires… unless they’re hiring, say, a religious non-profit group to do secular work. Seems fairly sensible.
But Scalia’s new regulations, which were finalized yesterday, will allow religious discrimination in those federally funded workplaces. A Christian employer of a for-profit cleaning company with a federal contract could still theoretically fire (or refuse to hire) Jews, get rid of workers who get pregnant out of wedlock, or kick out trans employees, all under the umbrella of “religious freedom.”
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explains the new regulations:
The DOL’s new regulation has three major components, none of which is grounded in the law. First, it broadens the definition of a “religious” contractor to encompass for-profit corporations, expanding the number of employers with a right to discriminate. Second, it allows these contractors to discriminate on the basis of an employer’s subject interpretation of “religious tenets.” Third, the rule makes it much more difficult for the Department of Labor to prove that a contractor discriminated unlawfully. Taken together, Scalia’s alterations would essentially eliminate executive protections for millions of employees in the U.S.
The Biden administration could undo all this, but that would take months if not years. In the meantime, Christian bigotry could be rewarded with taxpayer dollars.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser blasted the new rules:
“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. It’s especially heartless that the Trump administration would advance this policy in the midst of a global public health and economic crisis.
“On Nov. 4, the voters rejected this type of religion-based discrimination that has been supported by the Trump administration and the president’s Christian nationalist allies. This rule is a last-gasp effort by the outgoing administration to ignore the will of the people and cement a legacy of using religious freedom as a sword to harm people, rather than a shield to protect all of us.“
American Atheists also weighed in against this:
“This is an absolute attack on religious equality and workers’ rights,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “Job applicants and workers should not have to pass a religious litmus test, especially when it comes to government funded contracts.”
“The American taxpayer should not be forced to fund discrimination, period,” she added.
AA notes that we’re talking about roughly $560 billion worth of federal contracts and more than 4 million employees. The Trump administration just gave those companies a green light to make their most vulnerable employees suffer even more. (Merry Christmas, everyone.)
It’s just petty and spiteful and exactly what we’ve come to expect from a government run almost entirely by conservative Christians knows far more for who they hate instead of who they love. But what else do you expect from Republicans? It’s not like they were going to help those workers. It’s just appalling how they’ll do anything in their power to increase suffering all in the name of Jesus.
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