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Sessions Issues Blatant 'License to Discriminate' With 'Religious Freedom' Memo

Sessions Issues Blatant 'License to Discriminate' With 'Religious Freedom' Memo

Also today, the Trump administration issued two new federal rules gutting the Affordable Care Act's mandate for employer-provided insurance plans to include coverage for contraceptives at no cost to the employee.

Later in the document, Section 4 of that executive order provides, "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".

"I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his "first priority" by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections", wrote Farris in a statement. The 25-page document released by the attorney general will please many religious liberty advocates.

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, said in a statement the religious freedom guidance is a "license to discriminate" and "an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great".

However, the legal memo suggests that the government's legal authority to forbid racial discrimination may not be as strong as its authority to target other forms of discrimination, such as bias against women or LGBT individuals. "It also encompasses religious observance and practice". Freedom of religion is paramount to our nation's success but does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate.

"We have seen public officials criticized for their religious beliefs, elected representatives who have called for a "religious test" for public office, and marketplace discrimination against religious people who own and run businesses according to the dictates of their individual consciences", noted Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The 20 principles range from enunciating that the First Amendment's free exercise clause extends to both.

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The memo asserts the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies not just to people, but organizations and some for-profit companies.

The legal guidelines dramatically broaden the scope of what the government will define as "religious freedom" to include health care, civil rights, and even disaster relief. RFRA applies only to the federal government, although in recent years, similar laws have increasingly been proposed or passed in state legislatures.

Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions is instructing all federal agencies to ensure to the "greatest extent practicable and permitted by law" that the religious beliefs of people, businesses, churches and other organizations are accommodated and not burdened by the federal government.

Government may not restrict or compel actions because of the belief they display.

"R$3 eligious organizations may choose to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the organization's religious precepts", he outlined. But Justice Department officials insist they are drawing from lessons learned since Project Safe Neighborhoods was initially launched in 2001. "There will be numerous interpretations of what that religious freedom test would be and how the license to discrimination would be applied across particular agencies, grants and contracts", Stachelberg says. In Employment Division vs Smith, the Supreme Court ruled that the individuals were not exempt from Oregon's narcotics laws. The church had initially been turned away because of its religious affiliation.

"This guidance will help protect families like the Vander Boons in MI who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government", said Mr. Farris, referencing the owners of a meatpacking plant who were told by a United States Department of Agriculture inspector to remove from the company break room an article defending marriage as between one man and one woman.


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