Baptists publish advice on avoiding LGBT non-discrimination laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Southern Baptist Convention has published a guide on avoiding having to hire LGBT people.

Written in conjunction with anti-gay law legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the guide tells US churches and organisations that: “Disputes about what constitute a healthy vision for marriage and sexuality have resulted in the cultural harassment, intimidation, and even legal punishment for those whose consciences are held captive to the Scripture’s teaching on God’s purpose for marriage and sexuality.”

According to ThinkProgress, the manual goes on to give advice for avoiding lawsuits from former employees who may have been fired for being LGBT.

Under US law, ministers and religious leaders and exempt from non-discrimination laws, so the guide urges organisations to assert that all employees are ministers – from teachers to receptionists.

It states: “A religious organisation would assign its employees duties that involve ministerial teaching, or other spiritual qualifications.

“For example, if a church receptionist answers the phone, the job description might detail how the receptionist is required to answer basic questions about the church’s faith, provide religious resources, or pray with callers.

“Consider requiring all employees to participate in devotional or prayer time, or to even lead on these occasions.”

The advice is unlikely to stand up to court scrutiny however – the legal precedent states that while other members of religious organisations might be considered to have “ministerial duties”, they would have to be a major part of the job role to exempt them from non-discrimination laws.

The guide is also available freely online – and could be used as evidence that an organisation was deliberately trying to circumvent the law.

A study recently found that the majority of Christians are opposed to laws that permit business owners to refuse to serve gay people on the grounds of religion.