WASHINGTON — Over 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter urging President Trump to issue an executive order protecting the religious liberty rights of Americans nationwide.
“We write to express our encouragement and support for prompt executive action ensuring religious liberty protections for all Americans and look forward to working with you on complementary legislation,” the letter, signed by 51 Congressmen and women, reads.
As previously reported, in late January, the outlet The Nation claimed that it had obtained a copy of a draft executive order that allegedly protects faith-based entities “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with federal, state or local governments.”
It also was stated to protect the tax-exempt status of any group that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The White House has not confirmed or denied the existence of the order.
On April 5, House members including Mark Meadows, R-NC; Barry Loudermilk, R-GA; Steve King, R-IA; Louie Gohmert, R-TX; Don Bacon, R-NE; Darrell Issa, R-CA; Doug Lamborn, R-CO; Trent Franks; R-AZ; Thomas Massie, R-KY, and Glenn Grothman, R-WI, signed a letter calling on Trump to sign the purported order. They outlined why they believe such executive protections are imperative.
“The draft executive order would undo the unworkable Health and Human Services (HHS) contraception mandate and also ensure that Americans are not coerced to buy abortion coverage under Obamacare exchange plans,” the correspondence reads.
“Executive and legislative action is also needed to protect religious liberty in light of the Supreme Court’s recent redefinition of marriage,” it continues. “During oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, then Solicitor General Donald Verrilli stated that the nonprofit status of religious colleges could be jeopardized should they live out their traditional beliefs on marriage.”
The Congressmen also express support for the Russell Amendment and the Free Speech Fairness Act, the latter of which would protect churches from IRS investigation if they incidentally refer to political candidates from the pulpit.
“Because religious liberty is of such importance and under such threat, we believe that the draft executive order should be signed without delay and that all the protections discussed in this letter should be enshrined permanently in our laws,” their letter states.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has threatened to file suit should Trump sign such an order. It specifically cites its opposition to any language that it believes would allow discrimination against homosexuals.
“For President Trump to stand any chance at following through on his campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ to the LGBT community, he cannot follow fringe, anti-LGBT extremists down this ill-advised path of licensing discrimination under the guise of religious liberty,” Legislative Representative Ian Thompson wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
“Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental national values—and something the ACLU fights for every day. But it does not give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate,” he said.
As previously reported, days after taking office, the Trump administration advised that it would keep intact Obama’s order, #13672, which amended a 1969 order by then-President Richard Nixon prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap and age,” as well as a 1998 order from then-President Bill Clinton adding “sexual orientation” to the list.
Obama added “gender identity” to Clinton’s “sexual orientation” language.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the White House said in a statement. “The president is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
“The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump,” it outlined.