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.
Even though I welcome this EO, I am very concerned about what this EO means. The EO was necessary in part because of regulations put in place by President Obama’s administration. One such regulation is the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. But another one of equal concern is an executive order signed by President Obama in 2014.
President Obama’s executive order makes LGBT into a protected class in government contracts and hiring. And the big news this week (which almost everyone seems to have missed) is that President Trump has decided to keep Obama’s executive order in place. Rather than rescinding the order, President Trump is adding a new EO to mitigate the religious liberty problems caused by the first one. But there are at least two problems with this.
One, the next president can rescind all of these protections with the stroke of a pen. And it does little good to pass religious liberty protection that will end when the next Democratic administration begins.
Two, by keeping Obama’s EO in place, President Trump seems to be willing to accept LGBT as a protected class. And if he is willing to do that in principle, what would keep him from signing a federal regulation like ENDA which would accomplish the same thing? I have an article at The Federalist today raising this concern. And I think it’s a big one.
Religious Iiberty will be materially harmed if LGBT were ever to become a protected class in federal law. We know that because we’ve already seen what has happened in individual states that have such laws (like Washington State, where the attorney general has threatened the livelihood of an elderly flower shop owner).
Ryan Anderson is right: “Trump should… rescind former President Barack Obama’s executive actions on sexual orientation and gender identity that created many of these problems in the first place.”
Yes, we need President Trump to sign the Religious Liberty EO. But even more than that, we need him to rescind President Obama’s EO. But it doesn’t appear that President Trump is going to do that. And that should be of great concern to anyone who cares about religious liberty. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and it is time for conservatives to raise the alarm before it’s too late.