From The Nation: Excerpts below, read the article in its entirety online.
A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination.
The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “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 draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Pizer said this language constitutes “a license to discriminate with public money in a series of contexts in which people tend to be vulnerable,” such as against LGBT children in foster care, which is federally funded. More broadly, she said, it would permit organizations receiving federal grants or contracts to provide child welfare services not only to refuse necessary care but to refuse even to “refer the child to another agency or setting that would be protective and affirming and instead place the child in an environment that is aggressively hostile to who that child is, on religious grounds.” Even during the George W. Bush administration, she noted, “there were protections in executive orders that beneficiaries of grantees and contractors were not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Section 4 also requires the Department of Justice to establish a new section or working group dedicated to protecting “religious freedom.”
On Tuesday, the White House announced that it would continue President Obama’s executive order protecting federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination. Yet the new draft order codifies a laundry list of claims advanced by the Christian right in recent years as indicating that the advance of LGBT rights has put the religious freedom of conservative Christians at risk. “They would say this is a nondiscrimination order,” said Lambda Legal’s Pizer. “We disagree. We would say being denied the ability to discriminate against others is not discrimination against you.”