City, religious leaders working on nondiscrimination ordinance
Religious leaders say exemptions need to be made more explicit
Protestant, Jew or Catholic, most religious organizations believe discrimination is wrong, but when it comes to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, some people of faith felt they would have to compromise their own religious beliefs to comply with the law.
As the city council edges closer to a vote that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected categories under the policy, both sides are working together to draft a final version of the ordinance.
“I appreciate the spirit behind it (the law),” said Oak Hills Church Teaching Pastor Max Lucado. “I appreciate the gesture from the city council of trying to make it more acceptable, digestible work to those people who have concerns.”
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal said opponents of the ordinance -- both religious and secular -- have been spreading misinformation about the ordinance, but he believes working directly with faith leaders will appease the fears some in the faith community have.
“If you talk to me, and sit down, and do one-on-ones and ask questions, I can answer your questions,” Bernal said. “But if you're not going to talk to me then you’re going to read it and not know what it does.”
The two portions of the ordinance that caused the most concern deal with hiring practices and public accommodation.
The policy allows religious businesses and organizations to limit hiring to people of a certain faith, and if, for example, a gay Catholic was not given a job based on their sexual orientation, Bernal said the church has that right.
“Will the city step in? No,” he said. “They decide who a member of their faith is.”
Deacon Pat Rodgers, of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said while the organization is protected, the ordinance needs to make that language explicit.
“Write them in so that the layman, the average person, can look at it and not find fear or concern or confusion,” Rodgers said. “We want the freedom, believe we have the freedom, and the right under the First Amendment, to be able to say, ‘I cannot participate in this activity be it commercially or otherwise.'”
The city is expected to vote on the ordinance in September.
On Wednesday, District 7 Councilman Cris Medina publicly came out in support of the ordinance.
He released this statement on Wednesday afternoon.
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