Religious leaders opposed to a proposed expansion of Jacksonville's human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation responded to questions regarding the bill's religious exemptions Wednesday morning.
Under Part 2 of ordinance 2012-296, Section 402.209, discrimination in employment exemptions, it says:
"This Part 2 does not apply to: A religious corporation, association or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression to perform work connected with the carrying on by the corporation, association or society of its religious activities."
Dr. Raymond Johnson, founder and president of Biblical Concepts Ministries, told Channel 4 he is leading an effort to organize a group of pastors to oppose the change in anti-discrimination law.
"We do not except (sic) any part of this bill period," Johnson said via email. "It does not exempt a church parsonage, or a rental home a church may own etc. It is not a true religious exemption at all because it does not protect individuals that have a religious and or moral good faith conviction against the homosexual lifestyle. Individuals of faith or (sic) not protected from the government forcing us to fire, and or not fire, or rent or sale (sic) our homes to people that violate our religious convictions. This so called anti discrimination bill is in reality a 'religious discrimination bill' in that it takes my individual and religious liberty to protect my home or business from people that violate my faith, religious conviction, or moral conscious (sic)."
Not all religious leaders oppose the measure, however. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, at least one spoke out in favor of the change.
"This isn't an issue of same-sex marriage or even the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality," said Rabbi Joshua Lief. "This is an issue of discrimination and that is something Judaism is solidly opposed to."
The measure still has to be discussed in a committee that will eventually send it to the full council for a vote. That vote could happen next month.
You can view the full text of the ordinance on the City of Jacksonville's website.