Anti-discrimination measure or blow to religious freedom?

California bishops oppose bill that would prohibit firing workers for having an abortion or giving birth to a child out of wedlock, say it would violate First Amendment right "to infuse our codes of conduct with the tenets of our faith"

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher at a Veterans Day parade. (Photo by Chris Stone/Times of San Diego)

A measure that would bar employers from firing workers for having an abortion or giving birth to a child out of wedlock is getting pushback from religious groups who say such a bill would prevent them from requiring employees to act in accordance with their faith.

Under the bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), employers would not be able to discipline or fire workers for any reproductive health decision, such as pregnancy, in-vitro fertilization or abortion.

The proposal faces opposition from religious groups, who argue such codes of conduct are integral to the relationship with their workers.

“The bill would specifically deny religious employers our 1st Amendment protections to infuse our codes of conduct with the tenets of our faith,” said Sandra Palacios of the California Catholic Conference. 

“An organization specifically chartered to support or oppose a specific set of beliefs or actions cannot fulfill its mission without requiring adherence to a code of conduct,” wrote Jonathan Keller, president of the conservative California Family Council, in an opposition letter.

“Our community covenant does say that our employees are required to uphold our biblical values, and that certainly is a ’round-the-clock priority for us,” responded Phillip Escamilla, the public policy chair of William Jessup University, a Sacramento-area evangelical Christian college.

Gonzalez Fletcher, herself a practicing Catholic, said she was not trying to unfairly target religious institutions. But, she said, she was trying to combat an “inherent sexism” that comes with enforcing such codes of conduct.

A female employee’s reproductive decisions — such as entering an abortion clinic or being pregnant out of wedlock — can be seen by her employer, Gonzalez Fletcher said.

“A male’s decisions to whether or not they’re going to abide by a conduct never rise to that level,” she said. “So that inherent difference in how women and men are treated with these types of decisions just show how little privacy women are able to maintain.”

The bill, AB 569, cleared the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, its first legislative threshold, on a 4-2 vote.

Full story at The LA Times.

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  1. “Gonzalez Fletcher, herself a practicing Catholic, said she was not trying to unfairly target religious institutions. ” These politicians think everyone is stupid, ….

  2. I’ve never understood why a Catholic agency would want to fire a woman for getting pregnant. It really leaves her with the choice of quietly having an abortion or having the baby without the salary or benefits she needs to support it. If you were pastor or principal of a parish school would you fire an unmarried teacher for getting pregnant?

    • Anne T. says:

      C&H, there are Catholic and Protestant pro life groups that help find jobs for women until they bring their child to term. They also encourage fathers to be responsible or the mother to adopt to heterosexual parent families, so they have both a mother and a father. They are more secluded and private jobs, so as not to encourage marital relations outside of marriage which is detrimental not only to children and society but to women It is hard for any women to raise a child alone, and children know instinctively that they do not really have two moms or two dads if they are told that.

      • Anne…

        I was thinking here of unmarried hetrosexual women who work for the Church and become pregnant.
        A lot of times in these situations, she marries the boyfriend and they go on to live a happy Catholic family life. To children, firing someone for one mistake teaches that it’s”one strike and you’re out” and the institutional Church has love,fmercy and forgiveness EXCEPT for sexual sins

  3. Joel Fago says:

    Prohibiting firing workers for having an abortion is prohibiting firing workers for killing a human being.

  4. What’s next? Employers requiring job applicants to be Catholic? Yes, abortion and out of wedlock pregnancy is morally wrong.
    Apparently some want to impose their moral code on their workers. They seem to forget the US is not a theocracy and the minority have secular civil rights.

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