Re­li­gious free­dom:

Trump’s clear mes­sage

The Week (US) - - 16 News -

No doubt about it: “This is the Chris­tian Right’s pres­i­dency,” said Jay Michael­son in TheDaily Beast.com. Un­der the guise of pro­tect­ing “re­li­gious free­dom,” the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last week “qui­etly un­leashed a bar­rage of ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions” that erase years of progress for women and LGBT peo­ple. First, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will no longer pros­e­cute em­ploy­ers for dis­crim­i­nat­ing against trans­gen­der peo­ple. Then he in­structed gov­ern­ment lawyers to pri­or­i­tize re­li­gious free­dom at all times—es­sen­tially giv­ing re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions the green light to dis­crim­i­nate against gays in hir­ing. Fi­nally, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­panded the ex­emp­tion rules for the Af­ford­able Care Act’s con­tra­cep­tion man­date—so now all em­ploy­ers no longer have to of­fer their work­ers birth con­trol cov­er­age, pro­vided they have a “sin­cerely held re­li­gious or moral ob­jec­tion.” The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is send­ing a clear “mes­sage to re­li­gious groups,” said Dahlia Lith­wick and Mark Joseph Stern in Slate .com. When­ever there’s a con­flict be­tween re­li­gious teach­ings and our na­tion’s dis­crim­i­na­tion laws, it will side with re­li­gion every time.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has done the right thing,” said Na­tion­alRe­view.com in an ed­i­to­rial. Ses­sions’ le­gal guid­ance wasn’t a ma­jor pol­icy change—it just “force­fully re­it­er­ated” ex­ist­ing re­li­gious-lib­erty pro­tec­tions un­der­mined by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. The con­tra­cep­tion man­date, in par­tic­u­lar, was an “as­sault” on re­li­gious lib­erty. There is sim­ply no way em­ploy­ers such the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, an or­der of Catholic nuns, should be “dra­gooned” into sub­si­diz­ing their work­ers’ “life choices.” Lib­er­als are treat­ing this as an at­tempt to “ban” birth con­trol, said John McCor­mack in Week­lyS­tan­dard.com. But the rule “tweak” will af­fect only a tiny per­cent­age of Amer­i­can women work­ing for com­pa­nies with sin­cere ob­jec­tions to con­tra­cep­tion.

Lib­er­als have never un­der­stood why re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives sup­port a pres­i­dent as “un-Chris­tian” as Trump, said Hugh He­witt in The Wash­ing­ton Post. Well, now they have their an­swer. The pres­i­dent has al­ready nom­i­nated a raft of “solid” con­ser­va­tive judicial ap­pointees—“the source of the ul­ti­mate pro­tec­tion of faith”—and last week he proved he’ll go the ex­tra mile to pro­tect re­li­gious lib­erty. For many evan­gel­i­cals and Mass-at­tend­ing Catholics, hav­ing the free­dom to prac­tice their faith is the cen­tral right by far. If Trump backs them on that, they’ll for­give him al­most any­thing.

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