Socially conservative Christians are up in arms over a leaked memo which they say requires U.S. federal employees to accept gay employees and also to affirm their lifestyle.
Whistleblowers at the U.S. Department of Justice provided the document, called "LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers," to Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian litigation group.
It was issued via Email to DOJ managers in advance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, which is celebrated in June.
The contents of the document were developed by DOJ Pride, the DOJ's independent association which supports LGBT employees within the department.
Liberty Counsel published the document this week.
Particularly bothersome to the group is a directive which they say requires managers to verbally affirm homosexuality.
The directive says, "Don't judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval."
Liberty Counsel made the document public.
Matt Barber, a vice president for the group, suggested the directive is an implied threat to employees who do not speak up in favor of the LGBT lifestyle .
"So this is the DOJ picking sides, choosing sides, in a highly controversial, highly polarizing cultural debate and essentially threatening without proscribing specific punitive measures," said Barber on Radio America.
"This is how clever they are. They know they can indirectly threaten any managers, but if they included any specific threats, the lawsuits would fly."
Barber said that the directive has a "chilling effect" and could violate the consciences of those who disagree with homosexual values.
He also said that it transgresses the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech.
The issuance of the document has prompted Liberty Counsel to consider taking legal action.
Barber said that the implied threat against DOJ employees is enough to bring a lawsuit.
The organization has asked DOJ employees who feel sexually harassed or those who feel that their religious freedoms are being violated to contact the organization.
Barber said Liberty Counsel is looking into the matter to see if there is a cause of action against the federal government.
"We will sue Eric Holder (the Attorney General of the United States, who supervises the DOJ) if he is with an iron hand bullying and intimidating Christians in the federal workplace," he said.
The other "do and don't" statements in the DOJ directives include:
*DO use a transgendered person's chosen name and the pronoun that is consistent with that person's self-identified gender;
*DON'T use phrases like "gay lifestyle", "sexual preference", or "tranny" ( short for transvestite) that are considered by many as offensive;
*DO deal with offensive jokes or comments forcefully and swiftly when presented with evidence that they have occurred in the workplace;
*DO speak to employees, including LGBT employees, about their experiences at work, and solicit their ideas for how to make the workplace more inclusive;
*DO consider coming out of the closet if you are LGBT and not "out" at work; the presence of visible LGBT managers communicates that your office is open and accepting.
In addition, managers are encouraged to attend LGBT events and display "pride" literature, such as "gay pride" stickers in their offices.
Matt Staver, the founder and president of Liberty Counsel, said that "under this directive, "one cannot be a Christian and a manager at the Department of Justice.
"How does one who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible display "gay pride" stickers? The Department of Justice is engaged in viewpoint discrimination and religious intolerance."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an organization which promotes the family and traditional Judeo-Christian values, echoed Barber, calling the DOJ memo "chilling".
He said that the directive which interpreted silence as disapproval is outrageous. "Even criminals have the right to remain silent," said Perkins.
The DOJ, he said, is "actually telling workers that there's no place in the government for people with unspoken objections to homosexuality."
The DOJ notes on its website for Special Emphasis Programs that it enhances diversity to include LGBT individuals.
SPECIAL EMPHASIS PROGRAMS
In addition to its assistance to LGBT persons, Special Emphasis Programs seeks to develop a diverse workforce by offering support to minorities, women, and persons and veterans with disabilities.
While conservative media was abuzz this week concerning the DOJ material, little could be found from the mainstream and liberal press.
When it comes to coverage of the DOJ, much of the focus of the media has been on the department's secret monitoring of the phone records of reporters and editors of the Associated Press.
The DOJ has responded to this scrutiny by indicating it has been conducting a criminal investigation to determine the source of leaks involving a foiled terror plot.
An AP story in 2012 reported on the details of a CIA operation which stopped the planting of a bomb on an airplane by al-Qaida operatives.