Roman Catholic bishops criticized on Friday President Biden’s recent executive order on applying anti-discrimination protections to certain groups, arguing it didn’t properly account for religious liberty and furthered “false theories on human sexuality.”
Wednesday’s order, they said, “threatens to infringe the rights of people who recognize the truth of sexual difference or who uphold the institution of lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. This may manifest in mandates that, for example, erode health care conscience rights or needed and time-honored sex-specific spaces and activities.”
Signed by bishops from across the country, the statement represented another sharp disagreement Church leadership had with the second U.S. president to identify as Roman Catholic.
The executive order referenced the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County, in which Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a controversial opinion on what’s protected under sex-based anti-discrimination law.
“In Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. ___ (2020), the Supreme Court held that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination ‘because of […] sex’ covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation,” the order read.
The bishops argued, however, that the executive order didn’t leave as much flexibility for religious entities as the Court did.
“Every person has a right to gainful employment, education, and basic human services free of unjust discrimination,” read the bishops’ statement.
“That right should be protected. The Supreme Court’s Bostock decision, however, needlessly ignored the integrity of God’s creation of the two complementary sexes, male and female, with reasoning that treated them as devoid of meaning. Wednesday’s executive order on ‘sex’ discrimination exceeds the Court’s decision.”
They added that Biden was conflating “the goal of racial equality … with the imposition of new attitudes and false theories on human sexuality which can produce social harms.”
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) previously criticized Biden’s stance on abortion and other issues, saying that he would “advance moral evils and threaten human life.” When asked on Wednesday about Biden’s abortion policies, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president was a “devout Catholic.”
Biden’s identification as a Catholic has come under intense scrutiny from some given his public advocacy and activity. For example, he previously presided over a same-sex wedding ceremony even though the Church has long condemned homosexuality. The Catechism reads: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,'” it said referencing a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “They are contrary to the natural law,” it added.
It adds that individuals with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
However, Catholic teaching also emphasizes the importance of religious freedom, stating: “The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.”