President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday, May 3, 2018, that might just open the floodgates to LGBT discrimination.
The new faith initiative President Trump signed on the one year anniversary of his religious freedom executive order has LGBT advocacy organizations on full alert as reported by the Washington Blade.
Although LGBT rights supporters weren’t ready to pounce on the new Trump initiative, they expressed concern about the program and said they were wary of its impact.
Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s program on freedom of religion and belief, said in a statement the new initiative must not direct taxpayer money to organizations that discriminate against LGBT people.
“Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental and cherished rights. But that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm other people, to impose our beliefs on others, or to discriminate,” Mach said. “The ACLU will be watching this initiative closely to ensure that it does not promote policies that violate these core principles.”
Sharon McGowan, director of strategy for Lambda Legal, said, “there isn’t a lot of substance” in the executive order, but it reeks of earlier Trump administration efforts enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom.’
“As we saw in the proposed rule coming out of HHS last January, this administration thinks that it burdens someone’s religious belief to have to provide appropriate health care to a trans person, or even to make a referral to someone who will,” McGowan said. “This EO is very much of a piece with last year’s EO, Jeff Sessions’ proclamation from last fall, and what’s come out of HHS.”
McGowan said the executive order is also consistent with Sessions’ pledge to the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom to restructure the federal government to favor religious freedom even at the expense of protecting others from discrimination.
“So while there isn’t really much in here that’s new, it is another piece of the larger structure that this administration is building to weaponize religion,” McGowan said. “Faith doesn’t have to be synonymous with discrimination, but that certainly seems to be what this administration means.”
Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, went a step further and said the initiative makes religion “a tool to cause harm.”
“By allowing agencies that receive taxpayer dollars to discriminate against LGBTQ people as long as they cite religion as the reason for doing so, this administration has weaponized religion in a way that prioritizes anti-LGBTQ bias over vulnerable children finding loving homes,” Suffredini said. “President Trump’s continued attacks on LGBTQ families hurt everyone — and they will not stand.”
The Washington Blade provided information on the substance of the faith initiative executive order and its intended purpose according to the Trump Administration.
Trump, who created the initiative by executive order on Thursday on the National Day of Prayer, said during a signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden the program will “help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities, and our great country.”
According to the White House, the initiative will provide policy recommendations for the administration’s faith-based and community programs, such as ideas on helping these programs deliver more effective solutions to combat poverty.
The initiative is also charged with apprising the administration of any failures within the executive branch in complying with “religious freedom” protections — a term often used to mean anti-LGBT discrimination — and to reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion.