Trump’s ‘religious freedom’ executive order fizzles after ditching anti-LGBT clauses
The ACLU has decided not to sue Donald Trump over his ‘religious freedom’ order, after its controversial anti-LGBT elements were delayed.
Donald Trump yesterday marked the ‘National Day of Prayer’ with anti-LGBT conservatives, signing an executive order in a White House photo op that he claimed would boost ‘religious freedom’.
An early draft of the order leaked from inside the White House showed plans to protect people who discriminate based on “the belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman [or that] male and female refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy at birth”.
However, the final version of the order was edited to remove the explicitly anti-LGBT language, instead passing the buck to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law”.
Trump’s much-repeated promise to revoke the Johnson Amendment, which bans tax-exempt groups including churches from political activities, also failed to materialise, with a loosely-worded clause in its place instead.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which had threatened legal action over the order if it licensed discrimination against LGBT people, backed down after its text was released.
In a statement, the ACLU said the order was an “elaborate photo op” and its effects so minor that it was hardly worth suing over.
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said: “The executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.
“After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process. The order portends but does not yet do harm to the provision of reproductive health services.
“President Trump’s prior assertion that he wished to ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment with this order has proven to be a textbook case of ‘fake news.’
“The directive to federal agencies to explore religious-based exceptions to healthcare does cue up a potential future battle, but as of now, the status quo has not changed.
“What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services.
“We will continue our steadfast charge to defend Americans’ right to exercise their religion and ensure their freedom from having others’ beliefs forced upon them. The ACLU stands ready to sue the Trump administration and in the event that this order triggers any official government action at all, we will see Trump in court, again.”
The decision to neuter the order has been attacked by anti-LGBT conservatives.
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The National Organization for Marriage said:”The order falls far short of what is needed to protect people of faith from governmental persecution set in motion by the Obama administration.
“Instead, he has punted the issue to the Department of Justice which, he says, will develop new rules to protect the religious liberty rights of people and groups.
“This is the second time that President Trump has backed away from signing a comprehensive order protecting religious liberty after LGBT groups complained about the proposed actions.”
They added: “While we are disappointed that President Trump did not directly protect the religious liberty rights of people of faith, this battle is far from over. NOM is committed to fighting to ensure that the new rules that are developed by the Department of Justice are comprehensive and effective, and we will need your help in doing so.”
Meanwhile, the American Family Association said: “The religious liberty executive order President Trump signed hardly helped the cause of religious liberty.
“There was no word of comfort, encouragement, or support for those who have been victimized by the relentless persecution of the homosexual lobby.
“They apparently will have to wait for another day, waiting without any assurance that this new administration will stand with them and protect their constitutional liberties.
“The best grade we can give the president for today’s remarks is an incomplete.”