More than a thousand faith leaders have signed a letter urging Donald Trump not to use ‘religious freedom’ as an excuse to sign an anti-LGBT order.
According to reports yesterday, the White House is readying an executive order that would actively permit religious discrimination against LGBT people.
An early draft of the order leaked from inside the White House back in February, revealing elements to protect people who discriminate based on “the belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman [or that] male and female refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy at birth”.
The order was put on the back-burner for ‘re-drafting’ after the leak, but is rumoured to be back on the table after pressure from Republicans including Ted Cruz and Mike Pence.
Ahead of the decision, this week Politico published an advert from 1300 faith leaders urging Trump to think again.
The group, known as Clergy United Against Discrimination, penned an open letter to the leader.
It says: “As clergy and faith leaders who serve diverse communities across the United States, we write to you to express our deep concern over the draft religious freedom executive order that some have urged you to sign.
“Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care. We urge you to turn away from all proposals that would abuse religious freedom, including any executive orders on this issue that are currently under consideration.
“The religious freedom upon which our nation was founded has allowed our country’s diverse religious landscape to flourish.
“The draft executive order flies in the face of that rich diversity by enshrining one religious perspective- on marriage, gender identity, health care, and the role of houses of worship in partisan politics – into law, above all others.
“This is neither what religious freedom means in the eyes of the law, nor what religion itself means to millions of Americans of faith.”
It continues: “The religious freedom of individuals and organizations, including that of clergy and houses of worship, is already protected by the First Amendment and federal law.
“Additionally, we as clergy and faith leaders, stand by the right of anyone to hold beliefs that may differ from our own.
“For many of us, supporting LGBTQ individuals and families is a principle of our faith, and that needs to be respected as well.
“Furthermore, freedom of religion guarantees us the right to hold any belief we choose and to act on our religious beliefs, but it does not allow us to harm others in the name of those beliefs.
“We are appalled by the widespread discrimination that this draft order would unleash across all areas of life – including in some cases with taxpayer dollars – on our congregants, our neighbors, our families, so many Americans we may never personally know, and indeed even many of us personally.”
It concludes: “As people of deep faith committed to a country that supports robust religious expression, and in the spirit of equality and justice, we urge you to return to the true meaning of religious freedom.
“We must never allow this precious freedom to be used to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care.
“We urge you to refrain from issuing this executive order or any substantively similar policies on their own, or as amendments to existing executive orders.”
Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said: “The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others.
“If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.”
LGBT equality non-profit Lambda Legal previously threatened action against Trump over the order.
A Lamba rep said: “We will fight this with everything we have. We are prepared to sue in a very short timeframe if the executive order closely resembles the leaked drafts.”
In a previous message, Lamba CEO Rachel B. Tiven said: “We have a message for President Trump: The reported Executive Order is a direct attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, everyone living with HIV, women, and all Americans who love liberty.
“The immediate public outcry in response to the leaked order confirmed what we already know: people overwhelmingly reject discrimination against LGBT people and don’t want taxpayer money to fund hatred.
“Bigotry — whether against LGBT people, women, Muslim immigrants or refugees — has no place in our country.
“The Administration needs to stand down. Lambda Legal is remaining vigilant and is ready to file suit if this Executive Order is issued.”
Speaking to USA Today last week, a senior White House official confirmed that executive action on ‘religious freedom’ is still in the works, but that the proposal is under development to find a “middle ground”.
The source said the President wants to “allow for people to express and maintain their strongly held religious beliefs”, but is wary of directly rolling back LGBT rights protections.
A group of 18 Republican Senators and 51 Congresspeople including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have signed letters urging Trump to sign the executive order.
The Republican politicians claim that executive action is needed “to protect religious liberty in light of the Supreme Court’s recent redefinition of marriage”.
It asks: “We request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty… in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.”