On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement, claiming President Donald Trump is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” The very next day, though, we saw a draft executive order that contains perhaps the most sweeping attack on LGBTQ and women’s rights in the name of religion that we have ever seen.
On Wednesday, an administration official admitted it was an authentic draft being considered by the White House. And on Thursday, the Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “there are a lot of ideas being floated around.”
Today is the day you need to act: Contact the president and tell him he must not sign any executive order that uses religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women and others.
The draft order is shocking in scope. It uses religion as an excuse to permit discrimination, including by for-profit corporations and taxpayer-funded organizations, against, well, almost everyone. The order targets LGBTQ people and women, but it would also affect those of minority faiths, non-theists and almost anyone else. It even explicitly permits discrimination against people who have sex outside of marriage.
You're fired! Under a draft Trump order, religion could be used to discriminate against many employees.
It authorizes discrimination in hiring, public services and benefits, healthcare, adoption and foster care services, education, and more. And it favors social service providers, corporations and government employees who oppose marriage for same-sex couples, oppose abortion, and think gender identity is fixed before birth.
The harm it could cause to real people is hard to overstate.
Here are just some of the ways the draft executive order would allow discrimination:
* Specifically targeting women, it would allow an employer – even a for-profit company – to deny insurance coverage to an employee for “women’s preventative services” if it has religious or moral reasons. This could prevent women’s access to birth control, testing for HPV, and screening and counseling for domestic violence and HIV, all of which are vital to their health and equality.
* It would allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse shelter and help to LGBTQ youth. They could also refuse to place children with parents on the basis that it would conflict with the organization’s religious beliefs. This would deny children the loving, stable, and permanent homes they deserve. And it would lead to discrimination against parents, including because they are, for example, gay, divorced, or in an interfaith or inter-racial relationship.
* It would permit federal contractors and grantees, including for-profit corporations, to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion with taxpayer funds. You could be denied a federally funded job because you are the “wrong” religion or because you don’t abide by the same religious “tenets” as your employer.
* It would open the door to allowing federal employees and federally funded social service providers to deny services to certain people, most likely LGBTQ people and women, or deny certain services, most likely things like reproductive healthcare and HIV treatment, to anyone. This means a homeless shelter could have a strong claim that it can deny shelter to a gay teenager or an employee at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could refuse to help an unmarried couple who lost their home in a natural disaster.
As if that wasn’t enough, the draft order also contains a provision that would undermine enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, the provision in the IRS code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. According to the executive order, so long as the organization, person, or corporation is speaking from a “religious perspective,” it would be offered special protection.
If we were dealing with anything other than a Trump-Pence administration, I would be surprised by the scope and audacity of this draft order. It incorporates aspects of many laws and policy proposals that spurred widespread opposition from people across the country, were rejected by the states, were struck down by the courts, or, like the law then-Governor Pence signed, brought national embarrassment and boycotts upon Indiana.
As terrible as all the specifics are, we can’t overlook another fundamental damage this draft order would inflict: This order would betray real religious freedom. Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us the right to believe or not as we see fit, but it doesn’t give us a right to harm others. Enshrining discrimination in our nation’s laws is not religious freedom. If religious freedom turns into a license to discriminate then the protections it affords all of us are diminished.
The draft executive order surely would violate the Constitution and its guarantee of religious freedom, which doesn’t allow the government to show religious favoritism or to carve out religious exemptions that cause harm to other people. And its sweeping scope raises questions of whether the president even has the authority to issue such an order. We’re exploring every option to put up roadblocks in the way of the devastation that would result if this draft order were signed by Trump. But as we know from Trump’s recently issued “Muslim ban,” it seems likely that many people will be hurt before the legality of an order gets sorted out.
We will continue to fight for our neighbors – LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, non-theists and anyone who faces discrimination based on someone else’s religious beliefs. But we need your help too. You need to contact the White House and tell the President to reject any executive order that sanctions discrimination in the name of religion.