US Issues Religious Freedom Memo Giving Leeway in Hiring

Furthermore, the guidance says, religious freedom is more than the right to worship or believe privately. That could conflict with former President Obama's 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, which President Trump said he'd uphold, and green-light anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors in other capacities, such as the denial of services.

"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. 'The White House says the guidance "does not authorize anyone to discriminate" - and Lambda Legal will make sure it doesn't'.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday issued a 25-page memo that establishes the Trump administration's interpretation of federal law and regulations in an attempt to deliver to religious conservatives the widest possible license to discriminate, especially against the LGBT community. "This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation".

Sessions' directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, "Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status". It also says the government can not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment, which threatens to strip tax-exempt status from religious groups that engaged in political advocacy.

"President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom", Tony Perkins, president of one such group, the Family Research Council, said in a statement after the Sessions memo was issued.

Equal rights groups have already threatened to sue the Justice Department, which issued a statement claiming the DOJ was only doing this because Obama. This freedom extends to both individuals and organizations, and it is not surrendered when Americans engage in the marketplace or interact with the government.

The Trump administration also made an uninvited intervention into a discrimination case this year to argue against civil rights protections for gay people.

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It also says that the law "applies even where a religious adherent seeks an exemption from a legal obligation requiring the adherent to confer benefits on third parties", making it clear that RFRA applies in cases such as the HHS mandate.

Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation, said the latest memo was a "an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great". "The guidance that the Trump administration issued today helps protect that First Amendment freedom". Trump himself hasn't generally expressed the animus towards LGBT people that he's shown for Mexicans, Muslims, and women, and sometimes quite the opposite-promising, for instance, to protect the community after a gunman killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub during his election campaign.

He outlined as examples that religious entities may not be excluded from secular aid programs-in reference to the June U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer-and may not be prohibited from distributing religious materials simply due to their content.

The guidance also asserts that the Free Exercise Clause not only protects people, it also protects the religious freedom rights of businesses, for-profit corporations, religious organizations, schools, private associations, churches and denominations. It can be used for an organization refusing to offer birth control to their employees.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a policy on Wednesday that reverses employment discrimination protections for transgender workers.

Many other states have passed similar religious freedom bills.

  • Adam Floyd