Anti-LGBT Bigots Have "License To Discriminate" Under Sessions' Sweeping Religious Freedom Guidance

Remember when a leaked copy of Donald Trump's planned "religious freedom" executive order hit the Internet?

Well today, Trump appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a broad, and sweeping directive that will help protect those who say their religious freedoms are being impinged upon.

Under the new policy, bigots will "have license to discriminate" against LGBT people, women, and other minority groups.

From the Associated Press:

In an order that undercuts 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 say their religious freedoms are being violated.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, 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 concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for 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.

 

 

More from The Washington Post:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised [Session's] memo, saying that under the Obama administration, agencies lost a proper understanding of religious freedom.

“President Trump and the Department of Justice are putting federal government agencies on notice: you will not only respect the freedom of every American to believe but live according to those beliefs,” he said in a statement.

The guidance was generated in response to President Trump’s executive order that was supposed to make it easier for churches to engage in politics without losing their tax-exempt status. Sessions’s memo said the IRS should not treat religious organizations different from secular nonprofits.