Illinois churches are protesting a new state law that bars them from “discriminating” against homosexuals, contending it robs Christians of their First Amendment freedoms.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the bill into law yesterday amid a demonstration led by the Illinois Family Institute, or IFI, a non-profit group affiliated with Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Alliance Defense Fund.
The measure adds “sexual orientation” to the state law that bars discrimination based on race, religion and similar traits in areas such as jobs and housing.
The bill was signed to loud cheers and a standing ovation from about 150 homosexual-rights supporters who see it as a human-rights issue.
“This legislation sends a clear message that we will not allow our citizens to be discriminated against,” Blagojevich said in a statement.
“What we’re doing today is older than scripture: Love thy neighbor,” the governor told the audience yesterday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s what Jesus said when he gave his Sermon on the Mount: ‘Do unto others what you would have others do unto you.”‘
Illinois is the 15th state to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”
But IFI Executive Director Peter LaBarbera notes the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago, is on record stating it should be applied to churches, meaning they would not be allowed, for example, to reject a job applicant who practices homosexual behavior.
Ronen said: “If that is their goal, to discriminate against gay people, this law wouldn’t allow them to do that. But I don’t believe that’s what the Catholic Church wants or stands for.”
LaBarbera argues politicians who don’t view homosexuality as a sin have no right to take away the freedom of churches and people of faith to disagree.
“Since when do politicians get to interpret sacred religious teachings for the rest of us?” he said.
The law applies to organizations or businesses with more than 15 employees.
LaBarbera points out the Illinois law firm Ungaretti & Harris, which specializes in labor and employment issues, published an analysis of the measure, which says, “While many such municipal prohibitions on sexual orientation discrimination expressly exempt religious organizations from their coverage, the new amendment to Illinois’ Human Rights Act does not.”
The analysis says, “The question inevitably presented by this omission is whether the Bill will be applied to compel religious organizations to set aside convictions about homosexuality when making employment decisions. … The measure may ultimately force courts to consider and balance its ban on sexual orientation discrimination with State and Federal constitutional safeguards of religious freedom.”
LaBarbera says that with enactment of this law, government is coming down on one side of a heated moral controversy by forcing the acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.
“It’s about saying that ‘gay rights’ are more important than religious freedoms, and we hope ultimately it will be struck down in court,” he said.
The bill was passed on the last day of a lame-duck legislative session after a campaign by the state’s leading homosexual lobby, Equality Illinois.
Commented LaBarbera: “There is no societal consensus for homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality as the basis for civil rights — and certainly none for the idea that the ‘rights’ of homosexual should trump those of churches and people of faith to live our their rational belief that homosexuality is unnatural, wrong and harmful to those who practice it.”