Religion

Trump Expected to Sign 'Religious Liberty' Order

| by Ray Brown

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will reportedly protect a person's right to discriminate against others as long as the motive for that discrimination is based on religion.

The executive order is expected to be announced on the National Day of Prayer, which falls on May 4, according to CNN. The signing has been considered a victory for Vice President Mike Pence, who has long pushed for religious people's right to discriminate against others, such as conservative Evangelical Christians refusing to serve gay and lesbian couples.

According to IndyStar, Pence signed a "religious freedom" bill as the governor of Indiana in 2015 that was modeled after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. CNN reported that Trump's executive order has similar language to that bill.

In February, a document titled "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom" was leaked to The Nation and is believed to have been a draft of the executive order Trump is expected to sign.

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That draft calls for allowing "any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations," to refuse service based on religious belief "when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments."

The leaked February draft stated: "Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience."

Ira Lupu, a professor emeritus at the George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Constitution’s religion clauses, said that the language of the draft "might invite federal employees ... to refuse on religious grounds to process applications or respond to questions from those whose benefits depend on same sex marriages."

And if other employees do not cover for their co-workers' refusal to work, it could "lead to a situation where marriage equality was being de facto undermined by federal employees, especially in religiously conservative communities," despite Supreme Court rulings, reported The Nation.

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According to Politico, an anonymous source familiar with the new draft said not much has been changed from the version leaked in February.

"The language is very, very strong," the source said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign told the New York Post that the order would "create a sweeping license to discriminate, permit government contractors to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, gut coverage for women’s healthcare, and more."

Sources: CNN, Politico, IndyStar, New York Post, The Nation / Photo credit: Pixabay

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