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Jeff Sessions' Love Letter to the Religious Right
08 October 2017, 12:32 | Rufus Hill
People For the American Way Jeff Sessions’ Love Letter to the Religious Right
The SPLC said ADF "works to develop "religious liberty" legislation and case law that will allow the denial of good and services to LGBT people on the basis of relgion" and "has supported the recminalization of homosexuality in the US and criminalization overseas".
"Our country has a long history of protecting religious liberty", General Counsel for First Liberty Hiram Sasser said in a written statement.
The guidanceexplains that RFRA "applies to all sincerely-held religious beliefs", and the government does not have the authority to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious conviction. Sessions' memo also runs contrary to the current position of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which treats discrimination against an employee on the basis of gender identity, including transgender status and sexual orientation, as violations of Title VII. Since that convening he has done nothing to activate the Civil Rights Division or protect vulnerable populations including the LGBTQ community.
Today's guidance also confirms that government can not interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, criticized ABC News for its coverage of the group in July, after ABC News reported that Sessions delivered a closed-door address to the group at their Summit on Religious Liberty in California, where he suggested, according to a text of the speech later published by the conservative website The Federalist, religion was "under attack". Principle 2 states, "The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or not to act in accordance with one's religious beliefs", and that reference to not acting is the exact argument that has been used in countless cases where businesses and organizations have refused to serve LGBTQ people due to their religious beliefs. As Attorney General Sessions' memorandum notes, there are still federal statutes that prohibit discrimination against transgender persons, and states and localities may have additional protections.
It also included, however, the vague instruction that, "In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law". That assurance is left out in important passages asserting the primacy of religious freedom that could be construed to allow anti-LGBT discrimination.
He added: "It's unconscionable that the Trump-Pence administration also today encouraged employers to exert control over the essential health care decisions of their employees".
Among the principles outlined in the guidance is that certain religious organizations are entitled to hire only people whose beliefs and conduct are "consistent with their employers' religious precepts".
The anti-gay hate group Alliance Defending Freedom "called it "a great day for religious freedom.' The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group, called the guidelines an 'all-out assault" on civil rights and a 'sweeping license to discriminate'".
"Quoting from the 1952 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Zorach v. Clauson, he concluded, "[Government] follows the best of our traditions ... when it respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs".
When news dropped that the May executive order was coming, it was initially thought that it would be the same order that leaked in February. The Justice Departmentalready has intervened in that case on the side of the baker. "The one silver lining here is that none of this is binding on the courts, so people should continue to keep suing companies that discriminate...even if the government won't do anything", she said.
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