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The battle lines are drawn in the White House between religious liberty and LGBT rights

There is a controversy brewing in the White House that religious voters had better start paying attention to. As I wrote yesterday, there is one faction that wants to keep President Obama’s 2014 LGBT executive order in place, and there is another faction that wants to oppose it with an executive order protecting religious liberty. Politico reports today about who is leading the factions and where this conflict is going:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.

A draft executive order on LGBT rights — which outlines how to roll back former president Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs — has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.

But two sources close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have in the past been supporters of gay rights, said the young couple were both in favor of putting out a clear statement from the president, promising to uphold the 2014 Obama executive order and stopping the momentum for the turnaround in its tracks.

In short, Politico reports that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are responsible for the effort inside the White House to put an end to the religious liberty order. This puts them squarely at odds with Vice President Pence who supports it.

The salient question, therefore, is this. Who is the president going to listen to in the final analysis? Will he listen to Vice President Pence and enact religious liberty protections? Or will he listen to his daughter and son-in-law and advance President Obama’s LGBT agenda? Politico answers that question:

The fight over LGBT rights could reveal a fault line between Pence, an evangelical Catholic who as Governor of Indiana signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015; and Kushner, who is Jewish and whose social circle includes socially progressive New Yorkers.

“There are some in Trump’s family that have some views on these things,” said a source close to the discussions. “That’s where the decision is ultimately being made.[emphasis mine]

If this is correct, then the advice of Jared and Ivanka will carry the day. The Obama executive order would stand, and there would be no religious liberty protections forthcoming. Indeed, Politico reports that Jared and Ivanka are responsible for the statement that the White House put out on Tuesday night affirming its commitment to “LGBTQ rights”:

President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace

President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. 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.

I don’t think any Republican president has ever issued such a bald endorsement of gay rights. This is a first. But even more important than the rhetoric is the substance of Obama’s 2014 order that President Trump now says he supports. The order establishes LGBT as a protected class insofar as federal hiring and contracts are concerned. And now it is being adopted by a Republican president. That is a first as well.

Religious conservatives ought to be at Defcon 1 right now, but they are not. Everyone seems so distracted by the refugee order and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch that they are missing a looming threat. And it is one that they cannot afford to ignore.

Perhaps in the end, the Pence faction will win out. I hope and pray that it does. But from where I’m sitting, this doesn’t look very good. A Republican president is crossing lines that have never been crossed before by a Republican president. Religious liberty proponents who have influence with the president need to make their voices heard right now. The president must sign the executive order protecting religious liberty.

Pray for President Trump. There are things unfolding right now that will determine the future of religious liberty in this country. Will the trajectory be to continue what President Obama started? Or will there be protections for those citizens who cannot consent to the totalizing claims of the sexual revolution? The contest is unfolding right now in the White House, and we will know the answer to those questions soon enough.

It appears that President Trump is willing to accept LGBT as a protected class

Liberals are abuzz this morning about a leaked draft of an executive order (EO) that would protect religious freedom if signed by the President. Sarah Posner has a copy of the draft and contends that the EO “reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination” against LGBT people.

I have read the draft, and it does no such thing. The order does not legalize discrimination against LGBT people. It simply says that the government cannot coerce citizens to violate their religious beliefs. Ryan Anderson has also read a draft, and his assessment is spot-on, “The executive order is good, lawful public policy. And it makes good on several promises then-candidate Trump made to his supporters.”

As Anderson points out, this draft of the EO was leaked to liberal news outlets so that they could gin-up negative publicity that might convince President Trump not to go through with it. But this EO is good policy, and the president needs to sign some version of this. For more on this, go read Ryan Anderson’s piece at The Daily Signal. Continue Reading →

Sorting through the aftermath of the executive order heard round the world

President Trump’s Executive Order putting a halt on immigration from certain countries has been the story of the weekend. In many ways, the reporting and talking-headery have been difficult to sort out. If you want to make a start at understanding what has and hasn’t happened, I recommend reading these four items.

First, read the actual text of the executive order. Second, read Joe Carter’s helpful explainer. Third, read David French’s analysis which argues that the EO is not as bad as some of its worst critics allege. Fourth, read Benjamin Witte’s hard-hitting essay explaining why the EO is “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” From Witte’s trenchant conclusion: Continue Reading →

The Womens March has a doctrinal statement

Kirsten Powers had a tense exchange on CNN the other night as she was trying to point out that the Womens March over the weekend excluded some women (see above). One of the other panelists chuckled at her for pointing this out, although it is not clear why.

In advance of the march, the organizers published a doctrinal statement titled “Unity Principles.” Anyone who departed from the doctrinal statement was not allowed to “partner” with the march. Among other things required of “partners” is explicit affirmation of unrestricted abortion rights and gay rights. Here’s a snippet:

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.

LGBTQIA RIGHTS

We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

The Womens March was in fact exclusionary of some women as the organizers did not allow prolife women to be “partners” for the event. The New Wave Feminists, a prolife feminist group, were dropped from the “partner” list specifically because of their views on abortion.

Perhaps it wasn’t clear to all the marchers, but there was a specific agenda for the march. Kirsten Powers was right. It wasn’t a march for all women. It was only for those women who hold to certain dogmas about sexuality and gender.

Read the rest of the “Unity Principles” here.

Did President Trump just eliminate the contraceptive mandate on the first day?

Readers of this blog know that I have written extensively about Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive mandate. In fact, the most viral post I have ever written on this site was about this issue. The mandate has been controversial because it forces employers to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients–even if those employers object to buying such coverage on religious grounds. The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby fought this all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But the problematic mandate still stands, and other cases are pending. 

President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare. If I’m reading this correctly, that would allow the new secretary to get rid of the mandate. Here’s section two of the order:

To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

I’m not a lawyer, so we’ll see how this pans out. And you can be sure I’ll be following this one closely.

Mike Pence did not sign a law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay people

If Vice-President Mike Pence thought that his public scolding from the cast of Hamilton would be the last he’d hear on the subject, he knows better now. And so do all of his neighbors. The Washington Post reports that about 200 protestors marched through Pence’s new D.C. neighborhood in order “to protest what they consider his anti-gay views.” The protestors didn’t just carry signs. They marched through Pence’s neighborhood with speakers blaring music and with some of the protestors performing obscenities in the middle of the street (there’s a video in the Post‘s coverage). The Post‘s report describes an ugly spectacle brimming with animus towards Pence and anyone else who holds his views.

Among other things, what caught my eye in this story is how The Washington Post describes Pence’s “anti-gay” offenses:

As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender customers — legislation that sparked a national uproar and threats of boycotts until the legislature reversed course.

Anyone who remembers what happened in Indiana in 2015 should be appalled at how irresponsible and inaccurate this statement is from The Washington Post. Mike Pence did not sign a law that allows business owners to refuse service to gay people. He signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prevents the state from placing an excessive burden on religious freedom. The law doesn’t even mention gay people. The law he signed is nearly identical to the federal law which has been the law of the land since 1993. To say that the law allows business owners to refuse service to gay people is grossly inaccurate. But it sure does serve the propaganda interests of activists who want the government to force business owners to participate in gay weddings in violation of their consciences.

One crucial fact is often missed in these kinds of reports, so it’s important to reiterate. The actual business owners who have declined participation in gay weddings do not refuse service to gay people. In every instance where this has happened across the country, the business owner has had a long history of serving (and sometimes employing) gay people. The florist in Washington State, for example, had already served a gay couple for nearly a decade when she declined to participate in their wedding ceremony. She was happy to serve them. In fact, they were her friends. She just couldn’t violate her conscience and participate in their wedding. That is not discrimination against gay people. It’s simply her religious conviction that she cannot lend her creative expression to help celebrate what her faith forbids.

Contrast that situation with the fashion designers who are refusing to dress Donald Trump’s family for the inauguration this weekend. These designers object to lending their creative services to a man (and his family) who deeply offends them. There is an animus involved with their refusal that is not present in the case of florist. As Jim Campbell observes:

The designers’ objections are tinged with animosity toward the people whom they refuse to serve… They object to merely associating with Donald Trump or the female members of his family. And these fashion moguls seemingly won’t design any clothes for the Trumps, regardless of the event that they’re for.

In contrast, [Christian business owners like the florist] serve all people, regardless of their political views, race, sex or sexual orientation. What they can’t do, however, is speak all messages. So while they’ll gladly express certain messages for all people, there are some messages that they can’t speak for anyone.

I can hardly believe that these religious freedom stories are so inaccurately portrayed in the press. It’s no wonder activists are showing up in Pence’s neighborhood protesting his “anti-gay” views. But I wonder if these protestors really understand what his views are. If they are reading inaccurate reports like the one in The Washington Post, they may not know very much.

“I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.”

Meredith Maran had an interesting essay in The New York Times over the weekend: “I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.” In it, she describes her “marriage” to her lesbian partner in 2008 and the subsequent dissolution of their relationship in 2013. She regrets her gay marriage and divorce, but it is not because she is against gay marriage in principle. Rather she says this: Continue Reading →

Are counter-imperial readings of the Bible about to make a comeback?

Over the weekend, Mike Bird made a canny prediction on Twitter:



If you are not familiar with “empire criticism,” it is an approach to reading the Bible (especially the New Testament) that approaches Scripture as a “coded” critique of imperial regimes. According to this approach, those who are reading the biblical text carefully will notice parallels between gospel terminology and that of the first century Caesar cult. When read in that light, it is clear that the gospel is meant to oppose imperial regimes–especially the mighty American imperial regime that is afflicting the world. Continue Reading →

When “fake news” comes from both right and left

Albert Mohler has a really thoughtful commentary on “fake news” today. He is in large part responding to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post on the same subject. Bailey is lamenting the fact that too many evangelicals have too much credulity toward “fake news” and too much incredulity toward real news delivered according to real standards of journalism.

Mohler is sympathetic with Pulliam Bailey on this point. He agrees that there really is a qualitative difference between mainstream outlets and other “news” sources that have no editorial accountability. But Mohler also raises the very real problem that mainstream outlets have with detecting their own ideological bias, which sometimes distorts their reporting and which has led many conservative Americans to believe that “fake news” is the stock-in-trade of mainstream outlets.

I think Mohler is making a point here that newsrooms need to come to terms with. Liberal bias in mainstream outlets is real. And when it becomes the vehicle for the bullying false narratives of the far left, it has real life consequences for real people. It also has the effect of driving the bullied away from those outlets. Continue Reading →

Is the new head of the EPA a “climate change denialist”?

I know that climate change policy is highly controversial with ideological interests driving both sides of the debate. It is extremely frustrating, therefore, when news reports depart from “straight” reporting and delve into advocacy for one side or the other. I think we’ve already seen some of that in some of the reporting on Scott Pruitt’s recent nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).*

Earlier today, I heard the personalities on “Morning Joe” discussing Pruitt’s nomination and expressing fears that Pruitt denies the reality of global climate change—the implication being that conservatives are “science deniers,” etc. Their discussion seemed to be based on The New York Times’s coverage, which has this headline: “Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.

My issue here is not so much with the policy substance but with the reporting. The New York Times‘s headline says Pruitt is a climate change “denialist,” which I take to mean that Pruitt denies that there is such a thing as climate change. But is that headline accurate? When you actually read the reporting, the authors base this claim on a National Review article that Pruitt co-authored earlier this year. The New York Times quoted from this portion of Pruitt’s article: Continue Reading →

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