President Trump is expected to sign a “religious freedom” executive order on Thursday, two senior administration officials confirmed to Politico.
Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what is expected to be the ceremonial signing of a long-rumored executive order on religious liberty which would allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community under the guise of “religious liberty.”
Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders.
In February, a leaked draft of the “religious freedom” executive order caused panic amongst many LGBT advocates.
Titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom”, the E.O.’s language makes for “almost total allowance for exemptions by any person, church, religious organization or for-profit business, allowing them to claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, contraceptives, abortion, and gender identity outside of their particular viewpoint” writes The New Civil Rights Movement.
Experts say such language would enable mass amounts of anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom”.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told The Nation.
“The exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.”
Pence and a small team of conservative allies quickly began working behind the scenes to revise the language, and in recent weeks have ratcheted up the pressure on Trump to sign it. The new draft is being tightly held, but one influential conservative who saw the text said it hasn’t been dialed back much—if at all—since the February leak. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.
Thursday is not only the National Day of Prayer, it’s also the annual Canterbury Medal Gala hosted by the Becket Fund, a group that advocates for religious freedom. This year’s recipient is conservative legal activist Leonard Leo, who has played a key role in advising Trump on his selection for the Supreme Court and has pushed for the executive order in meetings with the president.