Editor’s Note: The constitutional principle of religious freedom has been undermined like never before under the Trump administration. This year we have seen unprecedented attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality, and an erosion of church-state separation that threatens religious minorities and the nonreligious in America.
As the new year approaches, we’re taking a look back at the Top 10 church-state separation issues of 2019 – and how AU has led the charge against these blatant violations of our Constitution.
In courts and in Congress, Americans United protected LGBTQ people from discrimination as the Trump administration and the president’s allies tried to misuse religious freedom to justify discrimination in health care, employment, social services, businesses and other aspects of life.
As AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said from the steps of the Supreme Court in October, “The religious freedom enshrined in our constitution is meant to protect the right to practice any religion, or no religion at all, without harming others. But let’s call out the truth – emboldened religious extremists today are weaponizing this sacred idea of religious freedom to turn back the clock on equality.”
Laser’s remarks that no one’s rights hinge on someone else’s religious beliefs came during a rally to urge the justices to uphold critical workplace protections for LGBTQ people. The court this spring is expected to issue a decision in these three cases that will determine if Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination.
AU also was on the front lines this year battling the Trump administration’s proposal to allow taxpayer-funded government contractors to use a religious litmus test to fire or refuse to hire employees for being LGBQTQ or the “wrong” religion. We rallied our supporters, who were among the 90,000 people to submit comments objecting to the proposal. The final rule has not yet been issued and is not yet in effect.
We also joined allies to file two lawsuits against the Trump administration’s Denial of Care Rule that would invite health care providers to cite religious beliefs to deny care to patients, even in emergency situations. Though written so broadly that anyone could be denied care, LGBTQ people are one of the main targets for this life-threatening discrimination. All three judges who have issued opinions on the rule have struck it down and blocked it from going into effect in November.
Congress is needed now more than ever to block the Trump administration’s unending attacks on LGBTQ equality. That’s why AU proudly supported legislation that protects LGBTQ rights, including the Equality Act, landmark civil rights legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people while making it clear that religious freedom cannot be misused to justify discrimination. The House passed the act in a 236-173 bipartisan vote; the Senate has not moved on it. Other legislation we supported that would prevent religious freedom from being misused to harm others included the Do No Harm Act, the Every Child Deserves A Family Act and the Put Patients First Act.
Americans United will continue to make it clear that discrimination is NOT religious freedom. Join us!