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Department of Labor Greenlights Employment Discrimination in the Name of Religion

Washington, D.C.—December 7, 2020—Today, American Atheists denounced the U.S. Department of Labor’s new regulation that expands federal contractors’ ability to discriminate based on religion.

More specifically, the new rule allows nominally religious organizations—and even for-profit corporations—to qualify for discriminatory religious exemptions. The new rule not only expands which employers can discriminate against workers and applicants, but also makes it harder to challenge such discrimination.

“This is an absolute attack on religious equality and workers’ rights,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “Job applicants and workers should not have to pass a religious litmus test, especially when it comes to government funded contracts.”

“The American taxpayer should not be forced to fund discrimination, period,” she added.

The Department of Labor’s new regulations particularly harm atheist, LGBTQ, religious minority, and female workers. Under this rule, any federal contractor—even a construction company, janitorial service, or healthcare provider—can claim a religious mission and refuse to hire any group they disapprove of as long as they cite a religious reason.

Empowering federal contractors to discriminate will affect a massive segment of the country and economy. In 2018, the government spent $560 billion on federal contracts, and in 2017, there were over 4.1 million workers employed by government contractors.

“On their way out the door, the Trump Administration is doing everything it can to lock in preferential treatment for religious bigots over the rights of millions of American workers who could lose their jobs as a result,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “We look forward to working with the incoming  Biden Administration to reverse this dangerous policy.”