Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal opened the door for state agencies and state contractors to engage in "faith-based" discrimination in hiring.
Jindal's predecessor, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, issued an executive order that banned discrimination in all the areas covered by anti-discrimination laws, including race, religion, gender, national origin, political affiliation and disabilities. Her order added "sexual orientation" as a protected area.
In addition, the order "banned discrimination in providing government services, in dealing with government employees and in government dealings with private companies. It also requires businesses contracting with the state to profess non-discrimination," according to Baton Rouge's The Advocate.
This executive order expired on Friday, and Jindal refused to renew it, claiming state and federal laws already broadly prohibit discrimination.
"I don't think it is necessary to create additional categories of special rights," Jindal reasoned. He also said he allowed the executive order to lapse because it prevented "faith-based" groups who chose to discriminate in hiring from receiving money from the state.
Religious Right groups are ecstatic over Jindal's decision.
"These types of laws are simply an attempt to silence and penalize the religious convictions of employers," said Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action (FOFA). Jindal, through this action, shows that he "supports equal protection for all employees," and Horne suggests Congress should follow Jindal's "common sense approach."
Speaking of common sense, that sure doesn't make a whole lot. Jindal's decision shows he refuses to secure equal protection for a certain group of people -- how that translates into respecting equality rights for all employees is beyond me.
Rather, it's just Jindal catering yet again to his Religious Right friends at the Louisiana Family Forum, FOFA's state affiliate and a group that seeks to "persuasively present biblical principles" in political and other issues. Gene Mills, the Family Forum's executive director, told The Advocate that his group expressed to Jindal how disappointed they were that Blanco passed the executive order.
"Gov. Jindal comes from a different mindset, understanding the damage that this potentially poses to children and to the economy," Mills told The Advocate.
Equal rights for all somehow damages children and the economy? Not only has Jindal and his Religious Right backers impeded Louisiana's public education system by opening the door for creationist concepts to be taught in science classes, now they want to teach children that discrimination is acceptable. And excluding certain types of people from living, working and spending in the state certainly doesn't seem to be the best way to build a faltering economy.
Instead, what Jindal has done is take away the "predictability and safety" for gay and lesbian employees in the state, co-political director of Forum for Equality, Randy Evans, told The Advocate. And he has made it clear that his definition of "equal protection" covers only those whom he (and the Religious Right) thinks it should.
"I do worry about them [faith-based groups], and they have expressed concerns," Jindal said.
What about all the others in the state who have expressed concerns -- including people who may lose their jobs and livelihood because Jindal supports discrimination based on so-called religious beliefs?
"He should represent all the people of the state not just the people he chooses to support," Louisiana State Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, told The Advocate.
Now that is what would make the most sense.