Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't allow beliefs to become bias

It comes as no surprise that religious groups have called on President Barack Obama to exempt them from any executive order that would ban discrimination of gays and lesbians by companies that do business with the government. This is one of the predictable consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court's wrongheaded opinion that exempts closely held companies from providing health coverage that covers contraceptives if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case has emboldened conservatives who seek to elevate their personal religious beliefs above the rights of others. The Obama administration should not waver in its commitment to stamp out discrimination against all Americans, regardless of its source.

In a closely watched case, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, a for-profit chain of crafts stores, in a 5-4 ruling that cited a federal religious freedom law in declaring that closely held companies could avoid complying with Affordable Care Act regulations that require that health plans cover contraception. While the court's majority argued the decision was narrowly drawn, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a stinging dissent that the majority opinion was a "decision of startling breadth." The next day, a religious group sent a letter to the president asking that he weaken his commitment to providing protection for gay and lesbian workers employed by federal contractors. The group wants the president to establish a "robust religious exemption" for companies that do not support homosexuality. The letter is signed by conservative Christian heavyweights such as Rick Warren, the bestselling author and megachurch pastor who delivered the invocation at Obama's first inauguration.

President Bill Clinton issued an executive order in 1998 that protects federal employees who are homosexuals from workplace discrimination. Obama is right to plan to close the gap and extend the same protections to the employees of federal contractors. The order would protect an estimated 14 million workers in the 29 states that don't currently have bans on discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers.

Not all religious groups support seeking an exemption from protections for gay workers. But those that do have stretched the religious freedom argument too far. Granting their request would open the door for all manner of legalized bigotry and witch hunts. How, for example, would a company determine an employee's sexual orientation? One person's religious liberties should not trample upon another's freedoms, particularly when they involve personal choices that have little to do with whether or not an employee can do the job at hand.

The Obama administration should remain focused on what is a clear directive from the Constitution, to protect the rights of all Americans, not just those with widely accepted religious beliefs and lifestyles.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18