Claiming widespread problems despite a complete lack of evidence, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is once again targeting religious employers with a bill in the California legislature.
The latest effort is AB 569 by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego). She and NARAL are claiming that religious employers are consistently discriminating against women based on their reproductive choices.
Despite supporters’ claims, only one such case has been discovered in a California religious organization in the last ten years and that was settled out of court, obscuring the facts of the case. None have been found in “secular” organizations.
The supporters also target “codes of conduct” – common to all employers – saying that they often include “morality clauses” that discriminate. Again, the only case they cite involved a code that was actually approved by a vote of a teacher’s union.
Strong protections against discrimination are already built into the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) but NARAL and a host of abortion providers throughout the state also want the provision in the Labor Code. This is probably a deliberate strategy because the Labor Code does not include widely accepted exemptions for religious employers repeatedly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts.
If approved the bill would open a whole new realm of lawsuits and legal battles. And, for some inexplicable reason, AB 569 also gives the dependents of employees the right to sue employers. Such a broad provision is found nowhere else in California law.
The author also claims AB 569 protects pregnant women from discrimination even though the word pregnancy appears nowhere in the bill.
The bill seems intentionally aimed at religious and faith-based organizations, which are allowed in tradition and through legal precedent to employee people who agree with the tenets of their faith. Such protections, derived from the First Amendment, enable churches and their institutions to carry out their missions while still protecting employees on an equal, non-discriminatory basis.