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Freedom of Religion in the Workplace

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Recently there has been a spate of instances where private entities have been punished for perceived anti-LGBT stances. In December it was the Duck Dynasty fiasco. In April, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned after it came to light that he had donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008. More recently it was the Benham Brother's pilot on HGTV not getting picked up for making anti-gay comments in the past.

The religious right has been quick to play the victim card, and claiming they are being persecuted for their sincerely held, First Amendment protected religious beliefs. Conservative Republican heavyweights like Governor Jindal, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz have all tried to frame this as a freedom of religion issue, or of persecution of Christians.

Others, like Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins have argued that the First Amendment only applies to Christians, and those who oppose LGBT equality. This last point is particularly ironic, given how they are demanding special status for particular brands of Christianity while bemoaning "special rights" for LGBT people.

They're wrong on so many levels, though.

The first amendment obviously was intended to protect every religious denomination, and we have 200 years of legal history to confirm it. It also only applies to the government. Private businesses most certainly can fire or punish people for expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs when it conflicts with corporate policy or civil rights laws.

Let's take an extreme example. The New Testament says not once, but twice, in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22, "Slaves obey your earthly masters..." Bringing that one up in the context of your opinion on the civil rights movement would end your employment in a hurry.

Or, how about if you told your female supervisor that you don't have to do a thing she says? 1 Timothy 2:12 clearly states, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

In either case, these positions are every bit as biblically justified as citing Leviticus as your rationale for hating gays. They can be sincerely held beliefs that are protected by the First Amendment.

It doesn't matter, though. Express either on record and you'll be getting the contents of your desk and your last paycheck by mail two weeks after security sees you out the front door.

Fundamentally, though, what social conservatives fail to understand is that they have lost the cultural war on lesbians and gays. For most Americans being rabidly anti-gay is a huge turn off. This shift in public opinion has trickled up into the business world as well.

Companies perceive appearing to support anti-gay causes, ideas or people is bad for their bottom line. They see having an inclusive workforce as good for attracting top talent. 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have equal opportunity policies that include sexual orientation.

Some religious conservatives really do see themselves as a persecuted minority. Their own media and film industry plays into this echo chamber. This echo chamber is also fed by the gerrymandered districts that produce a Congress that looks nothing like America. This is a Congress where they can make hideously racist statements that would get you fired in any corporate environment, and they'll still get re-elected. You can say things about women that would get you terminated in a corporate environment. Other members of congress have reportedly planted their flag on the side of homophobia.

This disconnect between the religious conservative side of the Republican Party on lesbians and gays and where the rest of America is won't last forever. We're already seeing the beginning of the end: Those people who rail about their right to say offensive things about lesbians and gays are becoming increasingly embarrassing to the party. The days is fast approaching, if not already here, when it becomes socially unacceptable to be homophobic, no matter what your religion says.

It's just a matter of when saying those things will be enough to lose an election, and not just your private sector job.