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. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
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.”
Yup. The White House literally has plans to make discrimination entirely legal, leaving atheists, the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, Muslims, Jews, and every other minority with absolutely zero ability to defend themselves from discrimination and bigotry.
Now, luckily, there is… good?… news:
he 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.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.
The exemptions, Lederman said, could themselves violate federal law or license individuals and private parties to violate federal law. “Moreover,” he added, “the exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.” It would be “astonishing,” he said, “if the Office of Legal Counsel certifies the legality of this blunderbuss order.”
There’s an update at the end of the article, as well:
Updated on 2/2/2017: A White House official, speaking with ABC News, did not dispute the authenticity of the draft religious freedom executive order, but officials said it is one of hundreds circulating, some drafted by the transition team, others by the White House, not all of which are likely to become policy. The official did not say who drafted this particular order.
So there’s some hope that this won’t happen?
Honestly, I have no hope. This is exactly the kind of theocratic shit I expect Fake Christian and his Dominionist staff to do. This executive order is quite literally the Wet Dream of right-wing, evangelical Christians all across the US. Agent Orange already has a Dominionist VP, and he’s appointed Jerry Falwell, Jr to head his Education Task Force. This would honestly just be the next logical step.
So if you’re an atheist who has been on the sidelines watching women and people of color protesting this administration, get ready. They’re coming for the secularists.