Archive for Friday, October 6, 2017

Sessions undercuts LGBT protections with religious-freedom order

October 6, 2017


WASHINGTON — In an order that undercuts federal protections for LGBT people, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping directive to agencies Friday to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are being violated.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump's pledge to his evangelical supporters that he would protect religious liberties, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.

"This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously," said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Trump announced plans for the directive last May in a Rose Garden ceremony where he was surrounded by religious leaders. Since then, religious conservatives have anxiously awaited the Justice Department guidance, hoping for greatly strengthened protections for their beliefs amid the rapid acceptance of LGBT rights. Religious liberty experts said they would have to see how the guidance would be applied by individual agencies, both in crafting regulations and deciding how to enforce them. But experts said the directive clearly tilted the balance very far in favor of people of faith who do not want to recognize same-sex marriage.

"Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law," Sessions wrote. "To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity."

The document lays the groundwork for legal positions that the Trump administration intends to take in future religious freedom cases, envisioning sweeping protections for faith-based beliefs and practices in private workplaces, at government jobs and even in prisons.

In issuing the memo, Sessions, a deeply devout Methodist from Alabama, is injecting the department into a thicket of highly charged legal questions that have repeatedly reached the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that said corporations with religious objections could opt out of a health law requirement to cover contraceptives for women.

The memo makes clear the Justice Department's support of that opinion in noting that the primary religious freedom law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 — protects the rights not only of people to worship as they choose but also of corporations, companies and private firms.

The document also says the government improperly infringes on individuals' religious liberty by banning an aspect of their practice or by forcing them to take an action that contradicts their faith. As an example, Justice Department lawyers say government efforts to require employers to provide contraceptives to their workers "substantially burdens their religious practice."

The document also calls into question the Johnson Amendment, which bars churches and tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. Trump in May signed an executive order aimed at weakening the enforcement of that law, which he has said penalizes people for protected religious belief.

The Justice Department, in the document, says the Internal Revenue Service may not enforce the Johnson Amendment "against a religious non-profit organization under circumstances in which it would not enforce the amendment against a secular non-profit organization."

The department's civil rights division will now be involved in reviewing all agency actions to make sure they don't conflict with federal law regarding religious liberty.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Religion has become one of the greatest frauds of all time. The fact that people who have no other reason or right to object to the rights of others can claim "religious objection" is a disgusting and dangerous position in our society.

Religion is based on "faith". There is not real provable position of most religions other than "faith". Anyone can claim this "faith" and loudly proclaim that something or other violates their "religion". And government agencies that are supposed to be kept free of "religion" will knuckle under to their "religious" baloney.

"Separation of "church" and state............what a fraud!!

Armen Kurdian 8 months, 2 weeks ago

By that definition, liberal claims that religion offends them are equally as fraudulent. So it seems your hate is shining through here, ergo, hate has no place in society or this discussion.

Ray Mizumura 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah, clearly, Fred's comment is the problem here, not The Regime's attack on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Alex Landazuri 8 months, 2 weeks ago

because justin is a troll who lives in his mothers basement.

Ray Mizumura 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Because The Regime hates life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Armen Kurdian 8 months, 2 weeks ago

As far as businesses are concerned, much as I am for protecting religious freedoms, I do believe if a business is for-profit and operating in the marketplace, they should comply with federal anti-discrimination laws. Do i think a small business should be fined $200K for not baking a cake for a gay couple? No, but I think more appropriate punishment might be to tell them they may lose their license to do business, or other type of sanction.

Ray Mizumura 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah, just scold and threaten them a little bit. That'll work.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 months, 2 weeks ago

And the word should get out that they are haters, not business people. I think they would be put out of business pretty quickly.

Brendon Allen 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law", Sessions wrote

This is one of the scariest statements I have seen in a long time. Our country's founders are rolling over in their graves.

My faith and those that follow me tell me speed limits are against our deeply held beliefs so I don't have to follow them anymore right? Hijabs in DMV photos now right?

More than just lgbt people this statement, from our nation's top attorney, is at best unconscionable and at worst just dangerous

Jonathan Becker 8 months, 2 weeks ago

As a Druid, my deep devotion to trees prevents the federal government from harvesting lumber from federal lands. My religious liberty is "burdened" by the felling of trees.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are being violated."

No one's "religious freedom" is being violated. You are free to practice your religious beliefs without restraint. You do not have the right to impose your "religious freedom" on anyone else.

The people who claim "violation" of their "religious freedom" are bigots, racists, and other malcontents trying to find any reason to attack something they just do not like. Attacks on THEIR FREEDOM.

Bob Summers 8 months, 2 weeks ago

American people would not need these frivolous directives if the federal government chose which religion everyone should follow.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 months, 2 weeks ago

You would love that wouldn't you? Support the 2nd Amendment and throw out the first. How very unAmerican.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Jesus Christ preached love, understanding and acceptance of your fellow humans...This kind of foolishness by employers who are cheap and parsimonious is not any indication of any religious concept that I ever heard Jesus preach. Using "religion" as a reason to be a jerk is not anything you could find in the Bible.

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