Critics line up against expected executive order on religious liberty

LGBT groups rally to oppose the religious freedom executive order that President Trump is expected to sign, outside the White House in Washington, D.C, on May 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Yuri Gripas

(RNS) As President Trump readies a much-anticipated executive order on religious liberty, critics are lined up to take action before he even signs it.

Legal and religious experts say that the rights of women, LGBT people and religious minorities will be threatened by the new order but their fears are based on a draft of the order leaked earlier this year. Trump reportedly will sign an order as soon as Thursday (May 4), which is the National Day of Prayer.

“If this executive order is anything like the one that was leaked in February, it would create an unprecedented license to discriminate with taxpayers’ funds, undermine women’s health care and elevate one narrow set of religious beliefs over all others,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, told reporters on a Wednesday conference call.

After Politico reported Tuesday that the White House was gearing up for a signing this week, more than 1,300 faith leaders re-released a statement that urged Trump to refrain from signing an order or making policies with language similar to the draft.

“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,” they said.

In February, The Nation reported on a leaked draft of a proposed order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom” and wrote that on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, gender identity and premarital sex, the Trump administration would allow exemptions for people with religious objections that are so broad it would “legalize discrimination.”

Protesters supporting LGBT and abortion rights gathered outside the White House at noontime Wednesday to encourage Trump not to sign the order.

At a February Capitol Hill hearing on religious liberty, Rabbi David Saperstein, the former U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, said the leaked language could cause “constitutional problems.”

Kim Colby, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, said after that hearing that an executive order can only go so far and some hypothetical examples cited by critics could not occur.

“An executive order can’t change a law that Congress has passed,” she said at the time.

Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday the leaked version of the order would allow religious organizations and employers that provide insurance under the Affordable Care Act to block access to contraception and other women’s reproductive services if they have moral or religious objections.

“This is discrimination against women, plain and simple, and the use of religion should not be undertaken to discriminate against any individual, including women seeking contraception coverage,” she told reporters.

She and Warbelow of HRC predicted that their organizations and others would be filing suits soon after the order is signed if it has language similar to the leaked document.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • There’s nothing that Trump is doing that’s not already covered in the 1st amendment. There is no right to abortion nor is there a right to use tax payer money’s to support abortions. As far as abortion goes it’s in fact an elective procedure and if the liberals want their abortions payed for by others take all those donations your wasting on rioting, blocking highway’s, and sending arms to terrorists. There is no right to be a homosexual or a right to force that belief on others because homosexuals have all the rights all citizens have that are protected by our Constitution. Contraceptives are cheap and easily accessible so that point is moot. Is it discrimination to be forced to support abortion because it’s an elective procedure, be forced to support homosexuality, to not pay for others health care, to be called white privileged because I sought to train myself to EARN a good pay , to be called a racist, to be called a bigot because of my faith, to be called alt-right, to have my business targeted because I’m a Christian………that kind of discrimination?

  • Actually SCOTUS already determined that women do have rights to legal abortions

    Also, gays are American citizens who pay taxes. 14th amendment states you cannot take away basic civil rights

    You have a right to be butt hurt all you want against gays and abortion

    You don’t get to discriminate

    In othe words, it’s not freedom of religion if it requires s victim

    Figure it out

  • “There’s nothing that Trump is doing that’s covered in the 1st amendment.”

    Fixed that for you.

    Since when do your religious beliefs affect my rights under the law? It is not the exercise of religion to attack the rights of others in service of your faith.

    Employers have no right to involve themselves in the medical choices of their employees nor is their input required for what constitutes the bare minimum government mandated coverage. Yes they have to support contraception and abortion of employees because it is none of their business. Being an employee is not being the property of one’s employer.

    “be forced to support homosexuality”

    Meaning to treat gay people like human beings. Oh the horror of not being able to attack people with impunity and to face consequences for doing so!

    Bob, if you are being called a bigot it is because you are one. You are advocating hate of various classes of people and discrimination. By all means be uncomfortable with the label. But I won’t pretend for a minute it isn’t appropriate.

    This order is going to die a quick death in the judiciary, should it be issued. As it should. I get the feeling that this is just for show to keep religious bigots like you still supporting Trump without him having to do anything. The leaks are entirely intentional.

  • “Figure it out.”

    Not likely with most fundamentalists. Their bible tells them what to believe on these issues and the faithful comply.

  • The trick to calling someone an 1diot is to not sound like one in the process. That was a pretty badly worded attempt at a zinger.

    Obviously you have nothing of note to say in response.

  • “There is no right to be a homosexual.” Danke, Herr Schumacher. I don’t have a right to exist? Or is it I don’t have a right to offend you by existing?Fortunately, decent people disagree. Including the courts.

    I have all the rights afforded to all citizens? I’m glad you agree with that. What you really meant to say was that I ought not to have all the same rights you do, based upon the malice you “divine” and justify from your ancient text. And that is, so I guess, what pisses off people like you so very much: the very idea that one them uppity f*gs could possibly be treated as your legal, cultural, Human, moral, religious, and familial equal.

    You’re not being called a bigot because of your faith. There are plenty of good Christians who do not delight in the despite you display for gay people. It’s funny, they are not being called bigots at all. You’re being called a bigot because of what you wish to do with your faith and all of the uses to which you put it.

    Not paying for others healthcare? how CHRISTIAN Of you. Are they paying for yours, or do you lack insurance? And if you lack insurance, are you paying your bills yourself? Or are we paying for it?

    Why bring up your race? What does it have to do with anything, other than your anger at no longer holding AS MUCH privilege over others? Why is Is your business being targeted? oh, it’s not? It’s just theoretical that someone could CHOOSE to disbobey laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of religious belief, and thought that her religious privilege made it OK? She has the same rights as everyone else. IF I can’t discriminate on the basis of religious belief, why can cottonelle?

    You are too much.

  • The 14th amendment doesn’t support gay marriage at all. The 14th didn’t require (decades ago when it was first initiated) and still doesn’t (even today), say anything that requires the states to alter their pre-14th definitions of marriage.

    And **especially** given the 14th’s specific wording, the states were/are not mandated, and not even suggested for that matter, to change to a gay marriage definition.

    Nobody has come up with a refutation of these facts. Hat tip to justice Alito and the late justice Scalia. (Maybe chief justice Roberts on part of it.)

  • Please Donny you’ve spent more time grabbing woman by the you know what than in church. Ever heard of the separation of church and state, like most things probably not. Maybe you should stop hanging around with Pence it makes you look even more stupid. Ask him why he believes in an ark and the world was created in 6 days only 6,000 years ago and not global warming. Hint because he is a fool.

  • I’m not sure how faithfully most fundamentalist “faithfully comply.” Seems to me you cherry pick what to follow. I’ve yet to hear one sermon against divorce for example. How many fundamentalists do you know that are divorced? Why is that? It’s because times change and you either adapt or die off.

  • I find it amazing that certain self-righteously self-defined “Christians” decry the equality and rights of their equals, deny the personal boundaries and private lives of their equals, and defy the most foundational human, social, cultural, and moral standards forbidding cruelty against their equals — e.g., subordination, oppression, invasion of lives, emotional abuse, denial of public accommodations including medical care…

    These so-called Christians gleefully go out of their way to dismiss and disparage other people and desecrate their most cherished and inviolate beliefs. They care nothing about others, let alone coexistence with them. And they pridefully blaspheme the devout faith of genuine, good, humble, helpful Christians such as my own late, loving, generous, and very wise parents.

    These hypocritical traitors to their own claimed religion fuel the flames of antitheism all by themselves.

    As I’ve said before — and as these profane, bullying “Christians” demonstrate even here on this page — if an Armageddon-style final conflict should ever occur, I believe it won’t be between these-believers and those-believers, but between Respecters of other people and their spiritual/existential boundaries and Trespassers against those other people and their truly sacred, peace-giving, life-affirming pastures.

    I don’t believe such an apocalypse will occur in our lifetimes. But if it does, I know which side I’ll be on.

  • I have to conclude that the only reason Trump hasn’t been impeached by his own party is Pence.

  • Aren’t you even interested in Bob’s assessment of your intelligence?
    By an odd coincidence, I got the same treatment only yesterday by DirtyHarry#1.
    They must be in the same creativity pool.

  • The Supreme Court begs to differ with you and their opinion is binding law. Yours is not. Equal protection under the law in Obergfell meant that a ban on gay marriage was discriminatory in nature.

    The facts were already refuted a while ago. You are trying to refight something already lost. Might as well be arguing for bringing back segregation.

    Oh wait, you already do that.:)

  • Marriage gives a lot of Legal protections to couples. “Equal Protection of the law” is a fundamental principle of the Constitution, which is the basis of extending marriage rights to Gays and Lesbians.

  • The supreme court is corrupt. How can there be such a thing as gay “marriage” when you must have a husband and a wife to have a marriage? Only a man can be a husband and a woman a wife. You don’t have this in gay “marriage”.

  • Sour grapes grousing of someone who lacks a sane argument to support their position.

    The Supreme Court is the last line of defense from turning majority rule into one person rule. From protecting us from voting away our rights and those of others. Every discriminatory law was passed by elected officials and majority vote. The bill of rights and 14th amendment serve to set limits as to what we let our elected officials legislate when it comes to our personal lives. The judiciary has the role to uphold that. Maybe if you had respect for rule of law and could cough up sane legal arguments in support of your position you would not be so willing to torch the judiciary.

    Your opinion of marriage equality does not negate it’s existence. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Nobody has to care whether you think their marriage is genuine or not. It’s none of your business.

  • What nonsense. The court is to interpret laws and not make them up. Again, there is no such thing as gay “marriage”. That is like saying square circles exist because a guy a black robe says they do.

  • The court is to interpret laws and not make them up.
    I trust, then, that you are equally against the court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act as well?

  • I suspect that with this Executive Order, we’re getting a “heapin’ helpin'” of our man Pence.

  • Well, I don’t know what your specific beliefs are, and certainty no disrespect to you, but dollars to doughnuts you would not last 40 seconds in a public debate about the Bible’s historical claims of a supernatural, intelligent creation and the age of the Earth.

    (I honestly think you’d get your fanny snapped up faster than the night-crawlers at Catfish Creek!)

    Meanwhile, Pence’s personal beliefs about Genesis don’t really impact the religious liberty executive order. But anything that scares NARAL and HRC, is automatically good for the American people.

  • Everybody said that the USSC’s patently evil Plessy decision was “binding law” too. So people just kept on chipping away at the foolish decision over time, till it died a well-deserved death, even though Plessy was never actually overturned.

    (The same thing can happen to the patently evil Obergefell decision, too. Trump’s religious liberty order will help get the ball rolling!! )

  • It was and the system that created it still creates binding law.

    As for chipping away, you mistake your role here. Legalized bigotry was the norm before the decision. As it was after Plessy*. Now it is being destroyed by modern, more enlightened, society. You are the stone, not the chisel.

    Obergfell has as much chance of being overturned as Brown v Board of Ed. Courts have even less reason now that gay marriages have been done all over the country. The courts are not going to invalidate those marriages for the irrational, bigoted and boneheaded reasons you give against them.

    *Do you think segregation was going to be destroyed based on an act of Congress? In late 19th century? Lol

  • I absolutely love it when a “I just want to be left alone” xian shows their true stripes and wears their bigotry on their sleeve. It always comes out eventually.

  • No, it’s closer to saying you’re not a raging bigot when you clearly are and have demonstrated it repeatedly.

  • That is what they did. Interpret the law and constitutional principles to resolve the conflict at hand. Your ignorance of how a precedent based common law legal system works is duly noted. You can’t come up with valid legal arguments so you torch the whole legal system. How infantile.

    Don’t give a crap about your opinion of gay marriage. It doesn’t change its legality. Those people in black robes create binding law. Your opinion of them during change that.

  • More liberty is a good thing! Forcing people to do things contrary to their religious convictions is counter productive.

  • What I find interesting about bills or EO’s that allow individuals to discriminated against others based on religious beliefs, ALSO allow discrimination against Christians..

    Bills like this open Christians open to being fired, denied services and housing all based on their religion… That Can and Will happen as others have different religious beliefs and they then have the right to disagree (discriminate) if their beliefs oppose Christian values.

    These bills/ EO’s are bad for everyone.

  • This EO FORCES people to violate their own belief systems….

    You like it only because you agree with it …… this time.

  • Since you (incorrectly) say that that the evil Obergefell decision is “binding law”, why are you (and NARAL and HRC) so very terrified of Trump’s religious liberty order?

    You are perhaps worried that individual Christians will stop being intimidated by Obergefell’s evil?

    Getting fearful that more of the obscure Kim Davis’es and Baronelle Stutzmann’s will rise up, pay the price, and say NO out loud, no matter the penalty? You do have reason to be worried, that is for sure.

  • Because it demeans the government and is intended to harm others. The EO will die in the courts within seconds. Much like the other illegal EOs.

  • Or maybe it will go to the USSC either under Gorsuch, or Trump’s Next Nominee. Who knows? Might accidentally become “binding law” or something?

    Or maybe Christians won’t even wait. Some Christians may just rise on up anyway now that it’s signed, they’ll speak up, and keep on speaking up, incident by incident, always chipping away. Keep looking over your shoulder, liberals.

  • Well, we’ll see. The religious liberty order HAS been signed now, and now American Christians have an opportunity to graciously give the Obergefell Cult something to lose sleep about.

  • It will have the lifespan of a sickly mayfly. There is no way the courts are not going to stop this one. It’s even worse than the messy immigration EOs.

  • How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg. Abraham Lincoln

  • It won’t get past appeals court. The conservative wing know it’s going to be a loser. Kennedy practically created gay rights jurisprudence. They won’t touch it. There is your 5 against right there.

    Plus Trump doesn’t really care about people like you. He already had your vote. If America wanted Bible thumping bigots in the white house, Trump would never have made it out of the GOP primary. So he won’t press the matter either.

  • As of right now, it would appear that the EO does not touch on the issue of allowing people exemptions to antidiscrimination laws based on their religious beliefs, beyond saying they “should be allowed to.” This really has no legal effect. Even if it did, a federal executive order cannot annul state or local antidiscrimination laws. Finally, Obergefell does not force anyone to serve gay couples, other than issuing a marriage license. The private businesses that refused to serve gay couples are not directly affected.

  • Haven’t you been saying this whole time that those of us who oppose Trump are paranoid and should just deal with the election result? Now you’re telling us to look over our shoulder. Which is it, should we be worried for our country and take action, or not?

  • There’s still millions of people that believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, but they are all under 7. Some people grow up and smarten up, forget fantasy and embrace reality. To each his own no mater how childish and delusional.

  • What exactly did he state that merited a “take down” when all he did was show just how ignorant he is and didn’t comprehend what I posted other than admitting he discriminates against others that he disagrees with?

  • All that ranting to admit you agree with me. BTW thank you for showing your ignorance and proving my point.

  • I guess not only is up down, but down is up in shoemaker land.

    Funny how there isn’t anyone posting who agrees with you.

  • Chief Justice Roberts most of all: “The Constitution had nothing to do with it.”

  • It’s hard to know where to start with you – your post above is filled with misinformation, and I can’t tell which parts are due to ignorance and which parts are the ever present Xian Persecution Complex (TM) bubbling up.
    1. Women do have a right to an abortion. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that this is the case. So your statement that it is not a right is patently incorrect. A woman’s right to this legal procedure is the reason the law around ambulatory surgical center compliance has been struck down.
    2. You are correct that taxpayer money cannot be used for abortion procedures – it is codified in law. In fact, it is part of the reason Planned Parenthood and other clinics are very careful about reporting on their budgets and where money is being spent. Womb-raiders like yourself typically decry those numbers because they don’t support your narrative – a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s budget is used on abortions.
    I (nor anyone else) knows what it means to “have a right to be a homosexual”, anymore than you have a right to be a heterosexual. It is a nonsensical statement that more than likely traces back to your magic book based belief that people choose their sexuality (you know, like you chose yours, right?). Substitute “black person” whenever you see one of these stories about someone refusing to make a cake or a bouquet of flowers for a gay couple. Hopefully that simple thought experiment will clear it up for you, but I strongly suspect you will clutch your magic book tightly and cling to your belief that it’s all a choice. You are married to that belief, because you know that if you ever entertain for a moment that people don’t choose their sexuality, you’ll suddenly realize you are no better than a cross-burning racist.
    If you own a business that serves the public, you cannot discriminate against people. Period. End of story. And it doesn’t matter what the majority wants. Civil rights don’t work that way. You are only a bigot because of your faith if you want to discriminate against someone because of it. Refusing service to people because you think they are “icky” makes you a bigot – sorry if you don’t like it – and hiding behind your magic book (which by the way you pick and choose from) doesn’t make it alright.
    I suspect strongly that this rational diatribe will bounce off of the armor you’ve built up to protect your irrational religious beliefs and its all for naught. I also have a hopeful feeling that you are older and that your bigotry will die with you and your generation.

  • As to your claims about abortion the only ones that agree that it’s a right are the liberals that ignore the Constitution sitting on the SCOTUS and that will change very shortly when Kennedy retires. BTW learn to read I never said the women that choose to murder their baby’s in the womb couldn’t have access to murder their baby’s, I stated that tax dollars shouldn’t be used to contribute to their carelessness on getting pregnant in the first place. If they feel the need for a elective procedure then they should pay for it out of pocket. And you homosexual argument is moot because homosexuality is a behavior and is not immutable.

    “being gay” has never been illegal. Homosexual conduct was illegal. But its decriminalization does not logically entail recognition of homosexual marriage. Homosexual behavior and relations need not be treated as normal or equivalent to heterosexual simply because they are decriminalized, and it should be self-evident to anyone with sense that they are not.

  • That you see it as a liberal versus Christian issue says world’s about you and your type of Christian, but nothing about liberals, many of whom are Christians.

    Just not YOUR sort of Christian. .

  • Bad guess on your part. But the bible speaks of those that speak as you do.

    Isaiah 5:20
    20 Woe unto them that speak good of evil, and evil of good, which put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for sour.

  • You do realize every one of your bigoted comments is proving my point don’t you? But knowing you bought the subject up using a bible please define a Christian is and then how one becomes a Christian?

  • So you say. But when I was little the idea that a marriage announcement in a newspaper appearing for a same sex wedding would have been considered preposterous. Nowadays they’re routine. Not that anybody reads newspapers anymore, but, you get the idea. It is things like this which demonstrate the futility of your little hissy fit there.